Europa Report

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"As the action progresses, this quickly becomes Marinca's film, as she uses her body language as much as the script to suggest more subtle forms of angst."

The irony of movies about space is that they tend to be as much about claustrophobia as the large expanse of the vast unknown. So it is with Europa Report, which like many a low-budget space thriller before - Moon and Sunshine to name but two - makes a virtue of confinement to raise the tension.

No doubt released on VOD and download to capitalise on the interest in Gravity - although the only thing it really has in common with that is its space setting - Philip Gelatt's script takes a while to get its thrusters going, but once it does it gathers a decent pace. Set in a not-far-off future, a mission, manned by six top-notch astronauts has been sent to test whether there is any life under the ice of one of Jupiter's moons. We know from the start that the job has gone disastrously wrong and learn in flashback what happened.

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The first English language film from Ecuadorian director Sebastián Cordero (Crónicas, Pescador) enters the pock-marked landscape of found-footage films but avoids getting stuck in the usual ruts. Importantly, he sticks to the rules, using fixed position cameras in the spacecraft to capture the crew from various angles - often with their faces partially clipped or moving in and out of the shot. To give himself a little more freedom and to stop things becoming too static, he also allows himself the luxury of equipping one of the crew a handheld camera, and then there are the internal and external cameras on the space suits used when anyone exits the craft.

This means that some of the cast have been selected chiefly for how they look at close quarters, with Poland's Karolina Wydra, although a capable actress, more noted here for wide-eyed concern than anything else. Also on this cheerfully international ship are the captain William (Daniel Xu), and his crewmates Rosa (Romanian actress Anamarie Marinca), Andrei (Swedish veteran Michael Nyqvist), James (South Africa's Sharlto Copley) and Daniel (US TV regular Christian Camargo). As the action progresses, this quickly becomes Marinca's film, as she uses her body language as much as the script to suggest more subtle forms of angst, although it is Copley who gets some of the strongest script moments.

Gelatt's script feels rooted more in fact than fiction, making the crew, in turn feel more believable with the end result that it matters to us when they start to get picked off one by one. Given the general documentary feel of the film, however, the scoring by Bear McCreary, though enjoyable in its own right, feels rather heavy for the material, although it pays off in the tension-packed scenes towards the end, and space-movie fans will doubltess enjoy the small nod to Kubrick it contains. Fans of monster movies expecting the usual space carnage will be disappointed but those who liked the slow-burn tension of Gravity will find plenty to enjoy.

Reviewed on: 25 Mar 2014
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Europa Report packshot
An international crew hunt for life on a moon of Jupiter.

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