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"Europa Report": The "Found Footage" Trope Takes Off 

Wednesday, Aug 14 2013

The found-footage mode of fake documentary seems mostly stripped of all fictional thrills by now, just as the planet Earth seems all but exhausted as a life-bearing habitat. What to do but explore the outer limits in search of fresh discoveries? Sebastián Cordero's stylish space-faring thriller Europa Report, structured as a pastiche of on-board camera feeds from a ship sent to investigate possible life on Jupiter's moon, has the virtue of total commitment to its concept, all risks be damned. Of course the risks are what make it interesting, and, owing a lot to natural performances and Philip Gelatt's tactful script, the movie more or less delivers on its tagline: "Fear. Sacrifice. Contact." A variously pedigreed cast includes 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days' Anamaria Marinca, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Michael Nyqvist, and Elysium's Sharlto Copley, but this is very much an ensemble affair, not to mention an attractive braid of suspense, techie curiosity, and wilderness appreciation. There's also some grace in how Cordero handles his homages, as when Mission Control sends the astronauts off with "some light traveling music" in the form of Strauss' "Blue Danube Waltz." It's more than a wink; it's a tribute to how 2001: A Space Odyssey has served as plausible inspiration for movies and missions alike. But it also begs the question: Did none of this movie's characters see 2010, the one that ended with "a warning from the landlord" to leave Europa alone?

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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