Europa Report, a review

Europa_Report_Official_PosterSomehow I completely missed the release of this movie.  It seems to represent the beginning of something I’ve hoped to see for a while: small independent productions that make use of the lowering cost of CG technology to make narrow genre films.  Most film science fiction is, unfortunately, garbage scientifically.  The cost and risk of making these films usually makes producers too skittish to take the chance of making a film that is accurate, instead taking the low road of confirming the audience’s common misconceptions.

But this film has a remarkable degree of scientific accuracy.  It does make some compromises, but they are the type of compromises that any but the highest cost productions couldn’t avoid, such as having the characters move around while on Europa as though the gravity was the same as Earth’s.

The film is about a manned mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, that is famous for possibly having an underground ocean under its icy surface.  Everywhere we have water on Earth, we have life.  Europa, as the only location of an ocean in the solar system, may be the likeliest candidate for extraterrestrial life in the solar system.

The story is told in the found film format, where we see the mission as it progresses from footage found after the event.  For this reason, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler for me to say that this isn’t a happy tale, but a thriller with the intensity building as the movie progresses.  All the action is seen from cameras inside the craft, mounted outside the hull, or on the helmets of spacesuits.

One thing I was very happy to see is that the film mostly avoids the trope of astronauts going crazy on the mission.  You definitely can feel the stress that the crew is under, particularly as the situation gets progressively more desperate.  Yet, the characters generally remain professional and do their job to the limits of their ability, and I found that immensely refreshing.

The story is told in a nonlinear fashion, with the action switching between various stages of the mission.  We watch as the mission loses communication with Earth, attempts to reestablish it, fails, and continues with the mission anyway.  We see the characters on the surface of Europa working to learn as much as they can to fulfill the purpose of their mission: to see if there is life on Europa.

This is a very well made production, with a gripping story, and a strong adherence to the science and technology of how such a mission would likely work.  The footage showing Jupiter and Europa is taken from NASA videos and pictures, giving the film an authentic feel.

I hope we see a lot more of these kinds of small indie films.  I rate it five stars.  It’s available on Netflix and for digital rent or purchase on Amazon.  If you enjoy science fiction thrillers, particularly when the science is done right, I highly recommend this film.

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