Europa Report treads that age-old adage of Sci-fi thriller which sees a group of brave astronauts travel to the farthest reaches of our solar system to find out if we are alone in the universe. But unlike an Alien or even the similar themed Apollo 18, Europa Report likes to play its cards close to its chest without ever really daring to play a full hand.
Constructed as a ‘found-footage’ thriller the film compiles recordings from Europa One, a mission to Jupiter’s largest moon. 19 months into the mission solar flares cause some kind of disaster but the film smartly allows the suspension to build by jumping back and forth between this event. Once landed on the moon Europa the crew are soon convinced that there is something beneath the ice. Risking themselves and the mission they push the boundaries of safety in the belief that mankind’s knowledge is more important than their individual lives.
Rightly paying lip service to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Europa Report is a Blair Witch Project style journey into space, rather than the woods. Like Blair the film spends much of its time building tension through the unknown and unseen as well as the mounting doubt between crew members under increasing stress.
But while the suspension is always present it’s never unnerving or offers enough pay-off. While much is achieved on the minimalist budget only the very final moments justify the desperate attempts to stretch out the mystery. Unfortunately the slow-burn never feels fully justified, even the moments of space-bound terror buckling under the force of last year’s Gravity.
Part of the issue is the lack of personality in the crew. Only Sharlto Copley’s character offers real verve to the piece and it’s made clear early on that he is not one for the long haul. Elsewhere only The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Michael Nyqvist feels like a character worth investing in although for the opening few minutes you’ll be convinced even he is Stellan Skarsgard such is the nature of the grainy footage and his dulcet Swedish tones.
While it tries to boldly go where many have gone before Europa Report is one star trek that fails to discover anything new. For its low budget and grand ideas this report gets an A for effort but for the most part Europa Report fails to truly capture the attention and as such is a bit of a failure.