Short Takes: Europa Report
By Chris Chang
(Sebastián Cordero, U.S., 2013)
On paper, Europa Report is a “found footage” moon-mission movie, which may sound like a chore. Thankfully, director Sebastián Cordero has many spectacular items in his sci-fi toolbox. When was the last time someone made a staggeringly beautiful found-footage film anyway? The mission in question, to one of Jupiter’s moons, has gone awry. The viewer learns this in piecemeal fashion, from signals sent by the spacecraft’s multiple cameras. The cameras are everywhere, with some aimed directly at the crewmembers’ often awe-struck faces. They are, indeed, attempting to go where no man has gone before (and there are, as it happens, four men and two woman onboard).
At times Cordero fills the screen with grids of monitors, enhancing the sense that there’s some weird extraterrestrial shit happening somewhere, but if you (and the crew) don’t pay close attention, you’ll miss it. The director seems to have attended a master class in video-glitch composition, and has also secured extraordinary visual material from the likes of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.
The beauty of deep space is tempered by the mission’s isolation, claustrophobia, and sense of impending danger. Again, the visual style, particularly during the passages built around the expectant faces of the crew, heightens the existential dread. And the many images reflected in eyes or the visors of helmets or windows triggers a certain Kubrickian frisson. Science fiction, at its best, enters unknown realms. Europa Report probes deep, and then brilliantly, dramatically, twists the knife.