This movie almost slipped underneath the radar among the big budget and big name stars releases of 2013. Europa Report is a a 2013 science fiction film starring Anamaria Marinca, Karolina Wydra, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Sharlto Copley, Embeth Davidtz and Christian Camargo, directed by Sebastián Cordero. It is a found footage film but – before you roll your eyes – it’s good quality cameras and uses a space shuttle cameras for their found footage stuff and also what appears to be a documentary of the mission’s headquarters back on earth.
The story is told in the form of a documentary or news report and is told by Dr. Unger, CEO of Europa Ventures of the mission of Europa One, which is a privately funded mission. The 6 astronauts are to travel to Europa, one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, to try to find potential sources of life. The 6 are captain Willam Xu and pilot Rosa Dasque who launch the ship with chief science officer Daniel Luxembourg, marine biology science officer Katya Petrovna, chief engineer Andrei Blok & junior engineer James Corrigan. During the mission the 6 members interact with each other and the cameras to record their journey and messages to family & friends. After a year of traveling in space a solar flare hits the ship knocking out communication with mission control on Earth. Andrei & James try and fix the system while on space walk. However an accident punctures Andrei’s glove and his oxygen levels drop. James grabs the tether and drags Andrei back to the airlock but they notice that James has hydrazine splashed on his suit from the accident. It is decided that the suit cannot be decontaminated and if James enters the ship, the air will become irreversibly toxic. With time & oxygen running out for the senior engineer, James pushes him into the ship against Andrei’s protests. This maneuver pushes causes James to float away, away from the spaceship and he records his goodbyes to his crew as he disappears from view and dies.
The ship finally reaches Europa and lands but a thermal vent throws the ship off course from the original target zone. They begin the drilling through the ice which is much thicker than the area where they intended to land and several quakes occur while they are drilling. Andrei, who is sleep-deprived and eliciting concern in the rest of the crew appears to witness a light outside the ship but is unable to record it or otherwise convince the crew. A probe is sent under the ice surface and into the ocean below but is soon damaged by a heavy dose of radiation from the depths. Katya dons a spacesuit and goes out onto the surface to get more samples from their target zone. The samples, which Daniel examines remotely contains several single cell organisms. Katya sees a light in the distance and moves in that direction, away from the direct line of sight. As Katya approaches the light glowing through the ice, the ground below her breaks and the crew watches her on remote cameras in horror as she plunges downwards through the water. Daniel suspects that the light from Katya’s suit attracted a larger, more complex creature and the crew agree to leave so that they could bring their exciting findings back to Earth. However just as they launch they experience a malfunction and the ship crashes back to the surface ironically landing at the originally intended spot. William is killed as he unbuckled his seat to activate the shielding and he falls hard breaking is neck on impact.
The ship now damaged is leaking oxygen and losing heat. To try and make repairs Andrei & Daniel don suits and open the airlock only for a radiation surge to hit them and Daniel disappears from sight while he is stepping out. Unable to patch the fuel line, Andrei suggests that a repair of the communication array is possible, if he cannibalizes parts from the ship’s life support system. This means sure death for the two of them but Rosa agrees and records a short video of herself giving a current situation summary. As Andrei finishes his work, Rosa notices light sources behind him that surround the ship. Rosa successfully re-establishes communication with Earth and all the collected images and data that have been saved over the blackout months (as well as real time data) are sent, just as the ground cracks and the ship begins to sink. Knowing she will die, Rosa opens the airlock to let the water in, in hopes of revealing the source of the light. The water rises beneath her and fills up making it’s way to the cockpit and the last part of the video sent is of the source of the strange light, a large bioluminescent animal that looks like a comb jelly (ctenophore) common in our oceans on Earth. The movie ends with Dr. Unger and several experts commenting on the ground-breaking implications of the discovery of non-alien life on Europa and honoring the sacrifices of the expedition members.
Original and sincere it is a good effort by the makers to tell a good scifi story. They also deserve respect for meticulously researching the real science behind its fictional story. There is some limitation because of the found footage style of shooting and you are left with sincerely hoping that this movie was a larger big budget venture with proper style filming. Still a good movie to enjoy for the science fiction enthusiast. I’m giving it an 8 outta 10!