DIRECTOR: Sebastian Cordero
CAST: Daniel Wu, Sharlto Copley, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Michael Nyqvist, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth Davidtz
CLASSIFICATION: 10 H
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
“I saw something outside the ship.” Those ominous words – or a variation on them – have been spoken in many different kinds of movies when danger looms on the horizon.
In the nifty new sci-fi thriller, Europa Report, those words are uttered by a crew member after their spaceship lands on Jupiter’s moon Europa, where they have travelled to discover whether life exists on other planets.
The basic story has been told many times before, but it’s intriguingly retold in this low-budget, bare-bones rendering of a familiar theme. The lack of big names in the cast may hurt the picture at the box office, but it could develop a cult following.
At the outset, we learn that disaster struck the Europa mission 19 months after blastoff. The rest of the film is a flashback constructed of rediscovered film recorded by the crew.
The entire story is told through this video footage shot inside the spacecraft, so the film is in the found-footage thriller tradition of The Blair Witch Project. The film is inevitably claustrophobic, but it enhances the tension. The few shots outside the ship, either in space or on the icy surfaces of Europa, are strikingly designed by an inventive special-effects team.
But the heart of the story is in the interiors with skillful editing used to sustain energy.
The storyis a variation on Ten Little Indians – the basic plot of the first Alien. Crew members are dispatched one by one to explore the creepy, unknown atmosphere of Europa. In the end this is another sci-fi monster movie, but the monster is wisely kept offscreen most of the time. This minimalist approach may not please gore freaks, but makes for a more subtle suspense film.
The impressive cast includes Chinese action star Wu, Swedish actor Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Romanian actress Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days), and South African actor Copley, who made a splash in District 9.
All the actors are excellent, but Copley’s farewell to his family when he realises he is doomed is the emotional highlight. His soliloquy is followed by a melancholy, beautiful shot of him drifting slowly away from the spacecraft. Some viewers may prefer a stronger finale, but the movie raises provocative scientific questions about our place in the universe while delivering understated thrills.
If you liked Gravity or Pandorum you will like this.