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Europa Report (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 90 minutes

OK for children.

Although overly fraught with lots of techno-gab, this is a pretty compelling story of the first journey to Europa, the Jupiter moon most often thought to have the possibility of life. Six astronauts from around the globe sign on to a private companyís mission that will take almost two years of space travel to get to Europa. While many ordinary movie-goers might not recognize the actors who fill out the crew, they are an accomplished group, headed by the one who is pretty well known, Michael Nyqvist, who starred in the Swedish (and much superior) version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and its two sequels. Rounding out the cast are  Anamaria Marinca, who won the Palme díOr for 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, Chinese American Daniel Wu, Christian Camargo from The Hurt Locker, Embeth Davidtz, known for the American version of ĎDragon Tattoo and TVís Mad Men, Karolina Wydra, and Sharlto Copley, who was also in District 9, a sci fi film I found disappointing. Their performances are what make the movie credible.

However, credit is also due to Director of Photography Enrique Chediak, who captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of the space ship and the bleak, frightening landscape of Europa memorably, and the score by Bear McCreary who blends classical and contemporary sounds and techniques to enhance the filmís ambience.

Ecuadorian directo SebastiŠn Cordero specializes in psychological thrillers. He conquers the challenge of giving pace to a film that is basically a set piece about a crew on a ship on a 22-month trip to a moon. It never seemed slow to me as the tension slowly mounts.

I donít know what the budget was for this, but even though the special effects are not mind-numbingly omnipresent and overwhelming like those in Man of Steel, they are very good. Since this is an indie and not a major studio, they obviously didnít have the budget to overpower the movie with major special effects, and this movie is better for it.

It is mostly shot on the space ship, which was designed by Production Designer Eugenio Caballero, Oscar-winner for Panís Labyrinth (2006), a visual tour de force. One of the main points that makes this film work is the realistic space ship in which the astronauts travel. The creation of the surface of Europa and the space walks are exceptionally good. His work is buttressed by that of the visual effects team led by John Bair who was responsible for the spacewalk scenes and the scenes on the surface of Europa.

Told with some flashbacks, the story is realistic and tense, as the astronauts are facing unknown perils. The trip and what happens are as believable as possible for science fiction. Poor Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (an early Ď50s TV show, also shot almost entirely on what the Ď50s thought the inside of a futuristic space ship would be) must be turning over in his grave.

In addition to the fine special effects are the sound effects, which pretty much put the audience on the ship, allowing it to experience the dangers and shocks to be found in outer space.

This might not win many awards, but itís a film one wonít soon forget.

July 9, 2013