Science-Fiction/Thiller, 90 Minutes, 2013
If you liked “Gravity” (my review) then you’re a smart, discerning and, if I may say, strikingly attractive individual. You’ll also love “Europa Report”. The movie presents a highly realistic space mission; in this case a multi-year, multi-national mission to Europa, Jupiter’s sixth moon. All our (actual) evidence indicates that Europa is home to massive, warm water-oceans under its geologically active crust of ice. It’s generally understood to be our best legitimate shot of finding extraterrestrial life in the solar system.
The movie is presented in a straight documentary style. Interviews with the six-person crew and mission developers are interlaced with monitoring footage from the many mission cameras. The overall story is hinged around several milestone events in the mission, not all of which are planned. The dramatic, non-linear presentation is anchored to and revolves around these moments providing clear context. It can sometimes be disconcerting but it’s never confusing.
While an actual manned mission to Europa may be decades away it is possible with our current technology. In fact, it would likely resemble the movie’s version pretty closely. The effects of long term space travel, the water shielding, the design and mechanics of the craft, the mission parameters and many other aspects are all meticulously researched and realized. Science does, sometimes, take a backseat to drama but never facetiously and never ridiculously. It pushes the boundaries of expectation and possibility but doesn’t cross them. As crazy as things get they’re always crazy within reason.
I’ve compared the movie favorably to “Gravity” and that stands despite the fact that it tells a more complex story for less than a tenth of the budget. Where the former was a big-budget, star-powered, adrenaline-fueled spectacle this is a much more intimate, long-term experience, perfect for the small screen. The two together may be altogether too much of a good thing. Here’s hoping that these are just precursors to a resurgence of smart, scientifically responsible, totally-fucking-awesome sci-fi.