Europa Report (2013) a (mildly) belated review

Heard about this low budget thriller a while back and was intrigued by what critics said, specifically that this was a “realistic” thriller involving an expedition to Europa.  For those unfamiliar with Europa, it is one of Jupiter’s moons and a source of great scientific curiosity.  The moon has ice on its surface and liquid water below and, therefore, may well have some kind of life forms within.

Anyway, I was intrigued.  Would the film live up to the critic’s kind words?

To this I would say yes.  For the most part.

Europa Report is a “found footage” type film.  We watch the story unfold in “real” time (to a degree) via cameras positioned within the spacecraft as well as “contemporaneous” statements by the people behind the mission, one that we are clued in from the very beginning met a very bad end.

The ship features an international crew (the best known of the actors playing the crew, to me at least, is Michael Nyqvist, who made a villainous turn in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and was Mikael Blomkvist in the European version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy).

The group’s trip to and eventual arrival and exploration of Europa -and the mysteries they encounter there- form the backbone of the story.  I don’t want to get into too many spoilers, but suffice to say the mission encounters plenty of problems on their way to discovering if Europa contains life forms.

The film is a very low budget affair but manages to get a maximum for its money, at least in the early going.  The effects are way more than adequate for the space flight and even the arrival on Europa.  Unfortunately, as the movie closes in on its climax the small budget hurts the film’s revelations.  I suspect the screenplay asked for more than the budget could effectively show, and while director Sebastian Cordero did a pretty good job with what he had, there came a time when the movie demanded more spectacle and it simply couldn’t deliver.

It was also during the later half of the the film that I realized…well, this might get into SPOILER material, so I’ll get into it after the trailer below…

Still there?  SPOILERS FOLLOW!

Ok, so after the astronauts reach Europa I come to the realization that this film, like The Blair Witch Project and a few other “found footage” thrillers I had seen before, was building up to a final, shattering image as its conclusion.  I was even more certain I knew what that image would involve.  And, when it came, I was disappointed.

That final image, meant to fill us with equal parts awe and terror, was simply…ordinary.  The image wasn’t bad, mind you, but I’ve seen far more chilling and startling effects in many movies and video games.

Too bad.

In the end, I do recommend the film, but with the caveat that this is a low budget affair and that low budget does hurt the overall product.