REVIEW: EUROPA REPORT (2013)

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Distribution/Production Company: Magnet Releasing, Wayfare Entertainment, Start Motion Pictures
Directed By: Sebastián Cordero
Written By: Philip Gelatt
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Anamaria Marinca, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Embeth Davidtz, Dan Fogler
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action and peril

I often find myself hearing the word “awesome” incorrectly in every day conversation. If we’re being brutally honest here, I too have used the word on more than one occasion. It is too often used to describe things that in no way actually inspire awe. In the case of the new science fiction thriller EUROPA REPORT (in theaters and on demand now), however, the film inspires such an immense sense of awe, the most accurate thing I can say when describing the film to friends and family is, “this film is truly awesome!”

Inspiring awe and amazement within an audience on a limited budget can often be impossible with filmmakers finding themselves unable to accomplish their vision and, at times, leaving us in the middle of an emotional wasteland with no direction or understanding of what just occurred. Sebastian Cordero and Screenwriter Philip Gelatt, along with an outstanding team of actors and crew, regardless of any possible financial restrictions, were able to inspire within us a feeling of discovery, imagination, and human perseverance in the face of the complete and absolute unknown.

europa-report-landing module

On November 16th, 2011, NASA, in the search for life beyond the confines of Earth, received data from the Galileo space probe that appeared to show a discovery of a vast supply of liquid water below the icy surface of the Jupiter Moon: Europa. Excited by the possibility that there could perhaps be many more such lakes in the more shallow ice regions of Europa, scientists were driven by the possibility that such expanses of water may provide some form of habitation for life. The privately funded Europa One Mission was devised and created to send a small crew of the world’s best scientists, engineers, and astronauts further than any human being had traveled before. The mission was to discover what mysteries Europa may hold for science and, perhaps, the future of the human race and its role in the universe.

During the 390,400,000 mile trip, lasting well over a year, a malfunction unexpectedly severs radio and video communication between the explorers and mission control, effectively cutting all ties between the crew and Earth. The onboard/outboard cameras continued to record, however, capturing imagery (amazing and mundane) inside and outside the ship, including the frozen and wholly alien landscape of Europa via ship and helmet cameras. Eventually, communication is once again re-established with the Europa One team back on Earth, along with footage that would amaze and shock the world.

Europa-Report-View From Europa

Upon the factual discovery in November 2011, Mary Voytek, director of NASA‘s Astrobiology Program at agency headquarters in Washington said, “The data opens up some compelling possibilities.” It is with those very possibilities in mind that the filmmakers behind EUROPA REPORT have created a visually and emotionally compelling science fiction feature that is already taking its place in the echelon of the great sci-fi classics. Comparisons have already been made to films such as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. This success is due in large part because screenwriter Gelatt and director Cordero made the conscious effort to focus so very intently upon the humanity behind the characters and story, combining the very human desire for exploration and discovery with emotional interaction and everything that comes with living and working together in confined and alien environments.

Not to be overshadowed, the special visual effects in EUROPA REPORT are not only breathtaking, but believable, drawing the viewer deeper into the story as opposed to many modern sci-fi films these days that rely almost exclusively on outlandish, sometimes cartoony, visual effects. The filmmakers, specifically production designer Eugenio Caballero and Enrique Chediak, the director of photography, worked closely with scientists like Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist and expert on Europa at NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory and a voluntary scientific advisor on the film, to create the most believable visual scenario possible.

Europa-Report-Interior Cabin

There were times during the film that I forgot I was watching a work of fiction, staring intensely at the screen, nerves on edge, truly connecting with these characters and what they were experiencing. I’ve always felt that the very definition of art is a work that elicits an intense emotional reaction in the viewer or audience. Whether the artist wishes to fill you with feelings of hope, fear, awe, dread, sadness, or any of the other myriad emotions we as complex human beings are capable of experiencing by their creation, the one constant is that a connection, an emotional bond, is established. Through incredible talent, and careful attention to detail, EUROPA REPORT is one of those rare films that transcend the level of sheer entertainment, becoming something of an emotional experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

4 OUT OF 5 SKULLS

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