Tired of the roar and drool of CGI-assisted stop-motion alien monsters? Then Ecuadorian director Sebastián Cordero’s “Europa Report” is the movie for you – a documentary-style science fiction thriller about a manned mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s five to six-dozen moons.
See more of Rick's reviews at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Cordero worked with four editors Alex Kopin, Craig McKay, Livio Sanchez and Aaron Yanes to produce a fast-paced thriller that deftly intercuts a catastrophic event presentation with single-to-split-to-sixteen-screen video footage of the mission. Cordero fills in incomplete “video” footage with “real time” scenes on the spacecraft that no one saw back on Earth. The result is masterfully riveting.
The opening scene shows the last video feed from the module. Transmission suddenly breaks-up, distorts, freezes and then goes black. Flashbacks to the mission’s planning stage show a panel of scientists describing how their interests were piqued after finding heat signature under ice cover. Hydrothermal vents warming the lakes beneath Europa’s ice sheets make it one of the most likely places in the solar system to harbor extraterrestrial, aqueous life forms.
Cut to the successful launch. Once the craft gets past Earth’s escape velocity, mission control transmits a little “traveling music” to the international crew – Strauss’s “Blue Danube” a la “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Past the moon – the farthest distance humans have ever travelled from Earth – and it’s on to to Europa.
The crew arrives at its destination expecting to find some form of life under the ice, but many things that can go wrong, do go wrong. The crew stays cool and professional to the end – after all, they are scientists on an expedition.
An underwater unmanned explorer module breaks through the ice to transmit live sights and sounds. Instruments detect fluctuating levels of radiation; unexplained lights flicker. The probe goes dark after an explosive burst of light.
Then a solar storm hits, disabling communications with mission control back on Earth. Someone has to go outside for repairs – a task, as one crew member describes it, that’s “like performing ballet and rocket science at 125,000 MPH.”
No spoiler required to reveal that they do discover some form of life – probably in a manner very much the way it’s going to unfold when it actually happens.
Cordero, who usually works with scripts written in Spanish, brilliantly directs a convincing ensemble of international actors in English for his first sci-fi flick, including earthbound team leader, Dr. Samantha Unger (Embeth Davidtz),William Xu (Daniel Wu) and his co-pilot Rosa Dasque (Anamaria Marinca), Dr. Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo), technician Andrei Blok (Michael Nyqvist), Russian biologist Dr. Katya Petrovna (Karolina Wydra) and American astronaut James Corrigan (Sharlto Copley).
Bear McCreary's score adds a nice touch. McCreary also wrote the soundtracks for “Battlestar Galactica”, “The Walking Dead” and “Defiance,” a Syfy series/video game set way in the San Francisco Bay Area’s future
See playdates and locations for “Europa Report” HERE.
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