Review: Europa Report
By Ryan MewhinneyOctober 2, 2013
Being a desk chair scientist is the highlight of my corporate enslavement, also known as my day job. Browsing the interwebs and never reading into the research is the modern day equivalent of watching the Discovery Channel or 2001: A Space Odyssey while being isolated in cubicle hell. Of course, I look forward to the end of the work day and getting to devote my time as I see fit by going to see movies, exploring worlds. The slog of the day to day is not the exciting part, it's the life I live once I leave work, the discoveries I make. Europa Report is getting a name for itself by being a realistic depiction of space exploration with its accompanied discoveries being quite believable. I don't have any proof, but it sure seems realistic from my extensive research watching movies and spending untold minutes a day reading the internets. Not that that really matters to those who have the interest, and find that the most awe-inspiring thing is the accomplishment of completing the journey and then reveling in the epiphany that you've slogged through so much to experience something new.
Europa Report is going to be divisive. It's a movie about the journey. It's about feelings of being alone. It's about the slog to try to achieve goals. It's a high budget found footage movie. Europa Report is about the first mission to deep space. The crew of six on the Europa 1 are headed to one of Jupiter's moons, Europa. That's it. Will they make it or won't they? What happens promises to be quite exciting, or so Director Sebastián Cordero thinks. After all, a crew of six people planning to land on a moon farther than we have ever been, which they (the crew, company, and humanity) hope to find life on, does sound like it could be an Apollo 13 amount of thrills. Don't forget, though, this is a realistic depiction of what a trip to Jupiter would be like, with its footage being narrated by interview clips with the CEO of the private corporation funding the endeavor, Dr. Samantha Unger (played by Embeth Davidtz), so it's not so much exciting as it is interesting.
Over a near two year journey things are bound to happen. As much as the scientists and engineers involved in planning such a trip would plan for every possibility, shit happens. Very early in the film, one of the six crew members is lost, as is communication with Earth. Such a long trip with no communication with home. Wondering whether we are alone in the universe is taken over by the feeling of isolation. Even with five other people to talk with, the crew descends into a depression that can only be lifted by achieving their goal. It's compelling to see the science at work throughout, but less to see all the hardships the crew go through. I don't fault the writing so much as the realism. Seeing and hearing the lethargic movements and musings of our crew is not quite as interesting as the journey and the discoveries made. As such, 97 minutes worth of movie feels more like the years it takes to get to Jupiter. It didn't feel like 97 minutes. It was interesting throughout, but not quite interesting enough for most audiences I would wager.
Even though Europa Report is a found footage movie, which, on thinking about it, moves a lot slower than I typically enjoy in a film experience, it's still an interesting trip. Its recovered and narrated clips give it that Discovery Channel feel with some obvious 2001 influences in the ballet-like movement of space, space walks, and the controlled movement of a zero g environment. If you care about the exploration, about the science, Europa Report will grab your interest more than someone who wants a tightly wrapped narrative with interesting human stories. Europa Report is very grounded in reality; whether you want to see that and all it entails will tell you whether you will want to join this voyage through space.