Europa Report made my head throb from boredom and ache from excessive visual irritations. But before all that negativity, Sebastián Cordero’s found footage sci-fi opened my mind with its art direction and effects.
Europa Report’s most impressive strength is its ability to make the audience feel as if we’re in that same spaceship as the featured crew members heading to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Cordero has used subtleties to blend numerous parts of the ship together to create a claustrophobic and realistic anti-gravity environment.
It’s sort of like looking at a glossier variation of M. C. Escher’s painting Relativity. You’ve seen it before. That picture of people walking right side up only to be mirrored by others walking on similar stairs in all sorts of directions. We never know which way is up and there’s a constant surreal essence as we feel as lightweight as the main characters. It’s nauseating and stomach-turning – but, in a good way.
The ship has also been laid out in such a way that keeps us hooked. Marine biology science officer James Corrigan (played by Shalto Copley) takes us on a tour from the perspective of his camera. We discover lengthy corridors and looming crevasses that easily materialize this setting into something more than just a set on a soundstage. There isn’t a moment of doubt that we’re watching people in the emptiness of space. Even Europa itself is very pretty in its eerily quiet forsakenness.
That said, the movie just as easily captures the monotony of uneventfulness while being stuck in the outer limits. Europa Report tries to label itself as a slow burn thriller, keeping its eager movie goers at the edge of their seats. However, for that to happen, the characters have to be human enough for us to keep hanging on – which they are not.
The film has done its research regarding protocols and procedures during outer space discovery. Beyond the lingo, the crew is made up of cardboard personas. And because of the restrictions a found footage film provides, audiences can never sink their teeth into these risk takers. Cordero’s movie refuses to give audiences reasons to care and ends up dragging its feet because of that.
The originality Europa Report had to offer travels very quickly down a spiralling path of found footage tropes, often reminding viewers of 2011’s dud Apollo 18.
The film constantly cuts to different surveillance cameras located around the ship. At first, I appreciated Cordero wanting to utilize these static shots. It shows he wants to stick to the format as much as possible. I didn’t even mind when he would split the screen into fourths, showing movie goers all perspectives of the ship.
But, as the ship receives more damage, travels through more turbulent conditions, or interacts with mysterious flaws, the film gets harder and harder to watch. Trying to endure the battered visuals, the jumpy edits, the relentless video filters, and the purposely awkward cinematography can only be compared to the painful cringing you make when you ride a subway and try to block out the unbearable screeching as the car hangs corners.
I tried to bear with the circumstances as best as I could, but Europa Report reached an avenue where I had no other choice than to remove what little interest I still had invested, close my eyes and try to reject the clashing that was being bombarded onto me. Normally I wouldn’t recommend bringing ear plugs and sunglasses to a movie, but the last 35 minutes of Europa Report may be the exception.
It all, of course, slams to a halt with a very anti-climactic reveal that wants gasps from its audience. Instead, it gets eye rolls and face palms.
Europa Report shows plenty of promise during a slow but effective beginning. It’s disappointing to see it all boil down to an annoying and tedious trip.