Europa Report (2013)

(On Cable TV, April 2015)  Taken along Last Days on Mars and Interstellar, Europa Report marks a small trend of space-exploration science-fiction, relatively harder-edged than the usual Hollywood pap.  Overcoming the disadvantage of being presented as a found-footage film, Europa Report tells the story of a doomed expedition to Europa.  (This is not a spoiler, as we know early on that Something Terrible has happened.)  Much of the film can be described as procedural hard-SF, as we see, from cameras used to document the expedition, the various dangers and events of space exploration.  This is a relatively near-future film, meaning that there are no extravagant scientific breakthroughs on display.  Intensely credible in its technical details, the film accumulates a lot of credibility during its relatively slow first half, which helps a lot when the film does take a step into the unknown toward the end.  Unlike The Last Days on Mars, however, Europa Report is a rarity: A film that confronts the deadly unknown not as a source of dread, but as potential for wonder at the universe.  The conclusion could have been presented as a downbeat horror-show but becomes uplifting, enigmatic and awe-inspiring.  Director Sebastián Cordero has managed quite a bit out of a relatively low budget.  While it may not be a perfect film (the pacing is an issue, the characters are a bit fuzzy, the script can’t get away from some obvious sequences and there’s a nagging feeling that the film is one Big Idea away from complete success), Europa Report will probably become one of those oft-referred films, especially by SF fans bemoaning the lack of realistic examples of the form.    

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