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Europa Report - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Europa Report
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B-

Seriously, how many "found footage" movies do we need? This conceit has become a cliché.

In director Sebastián Cordero's pseudo-defense, the conceit also helps an obviously low-budget film come across as relatively realistic. Europa Report presents as the "recovered transmissions" of surveillance cameras in the spacecraft, and in some cases the space suits, of a crew being sent to Jupiter's moon of the same name to test for alien life. It's a privately funded mission, with only a few clips of post-mission interviews with people from Mission Control. Otherwise it's just mostly static, often distorted shots of the six astronauts going about their business -- and, for varying reasons, dying.

Some of the shots are still mesmerizing. The "exterior" footage from cameras showing moving pieces of the ship as it moves through space, or the very sparingly used shots of Jupiter, have a certain thrill to them. Eventually they do land on Europa, and honestly the shots of the Europan surface are not quite as convincing as one might hope, considering it's merely a surface of ice. There are no grand exterior shots of any planet or moon, because the point of view is always either from an astronaut's suit or their space craft. Much of the Europan surface looks a little artificial.

That's less important than the story, which grows from tensions as things go wrong, at first due to mechanical issues and then due to what they find under the surface of the ice. This tension builds at a very slow but steady burn, and even with the amount of pretty banal footage, it's always compelling. I'd hesitate to call it original. There are many shades of Alien in this movie. That groundbreaking film's tension and horrors derived largely from what we didn't see, and the dread of what might be seen next. Europa Report shows us even less. We don't even get to a glimpse of what these people are actually dealing with until the very end, at which point, I'm sad to say, there are echoes of Signs -- never a good, ahem, sign. At least Cordero handles it far better than M. Night Shyamalan did. This movie isn’t totally ridiculous, and for science fiction, most of it comes across as unusually authentic.

That's not to say none of it is ridiculous. As always, there are some pretty big plot holes if you think hard enough about it. It can be argued that it's just a movie, but this in particular is a movie with airs of intellectuality, which are undermined by its creeping contrivances.

The acting is serviceable at best. The only even remotely recognizable face in it is Sharlto Copley, from District 9 and Elysium. Sometimes the dialogue drifts in an out of believability, like when one of the crew says, "With all due respect, I think we should decide together." Okay, sure, maybe someone would actually say that, under these circumstances, about another crew member being allowed to put her own life at risk. Or maybe this is yet another movie in which those same words are just put into another character's mouth.

That is to say: there's nothing new going on here. Not in the story, not in the delivery, and certainly not in the "found footage" genre. The one area that is relatively impressive is the editing, which propels this same-old story forward in a way that keeps us from losing interest. Considering the limitations of the "found footage" to be assembled together, the film's editors (of which there are four credited) had their work cut out for them. On that front, they deliver.

There might be something out there on EUROPA REPORT.

Overall: B
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