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I know – I’ve been meaning to write this review for months. I’ve been promising and promising, and now nearly half a year after seeing it, I am finally reviewing the science-fiction film Europa Report. Directed by Sebastian Cordero, Europa Report is a non-linear found footage film starring, among others, Christian Camargo (Showtime’s Dexter), Sharlto Copley (The A-Team), and Embeth Davidtz (Schindler’s List). The film follows the fictional Europa One voyage, a privately funded space mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Davidtz plays Dr. Unger, the CEO of Europa Ventures, who narrates the film, explaining the events that take place on the ship and offering insight into the characters and the mission itself.
Europa Report’s non-linear story structure is both interesting and unique, setting it apart somewhat from other found footage films of the past few years. This is a genre I was tired of about five minutes after it began, but Europa Report is interesting as well in that it is a science fiction feature, whereas a majority of found footage films are in the horror genre, where diminishing returns are much higher. Europa Report also features great production design and camera work. Actually, much of the technical work behind the film is pretty solid, especially for something that cost less than ten million dollars to make.
Acting isn’t the film’s strong suit, but Copley stands out amongst the crowd of typically cast astronauts as the strongest member of the cast. Davidtz does fine as the film’s narrator, offering structure to the story. Comedy actor Dan Fogler shows up in a small role as a scientist and does fine as well. How this guy doesn’t get more consistent work is a mystery to me. The rest of the film’s cast, including the aforementioned Camargo, are mostly fine I guess, if somewhat nondescript. Part of the problem is that the script doesn’t exactly give the audience much of a reason to care about these characters outside of Copley’s family man.
The big problem I have with Europa Report is in its ending. The last act of the film, quite frankly, pretty much craps the bed. Europa Report is set up as a fairly serious and straightforward hard science fiction film, but its ending goes too far over the top for my liking. Without spoiling anything, the film veers into unfortunate sci-fi silliness, losing its more realistic edge. It would be like if Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity ended with Sandra Bullock being eaten by a space monster out of nowhere. Everything up until the ending felt like it was building toward something neat, but then things just got weird.
I find it hard to recommend Europa Report despite the awesome production design and great Copley performance. The film is fairly well-directed and it’s pretty incredible that a film this cheap looks so good, but the script just isn’t all that good. There has been a glut of found footage movies released in the past five or so years, and Europa Report is one of the better ones out there despite its last act problems. So I imagine if you like this tired subgenre of film, you might enjoy this movie. Sci-fi fans might also be interested, but like I said, be aware that the last act has its fair share of issues.