With a linear story and easily identifiable characters, Europa Report is not an experimental film in the classic sense. Nor is it a traditional narrative, not with its cut through space and time structure, mockumentary talking heads, and constant claustrophobic visuals. Much like Stories We Tell, Europa Report refuses to be chained by genre. In that way, it is both familiar and fresh, featuring several different stylistic identities, all of which effectively cooperate to build a sense of mystery and tension.
Perhaps Europa Report’s greatest strength comes from its four credited editors (and Director Sebastian Cordero, who doubtlessly oversaw the editing process). The film jumps backward, forward and sideways through its timeline, continually giving us enough hints that we think we can decipher what has and/or will happen, but never too much that we feel as though the mystery is a fait accompli. Then, through timely editing, we are given just enough surprises that the narrative continually moves forward. Europa Report is a cleverly edited piece of filmmaking.
It is also well filmed, using a combination of found footage, close angles and multiple perspectives to produce a constant sense of claustrophobic intimacy, a sense that is also fueled by the Europa One setting.
Director Sebastian Cordero adheres to rapid pacing, but still somehow manages to produce a feeling of lengthy travel, much like the one the characters are experiencing.
The audio is eerily fantastic, further fueling the uncomfortable closeness that drives so much of Europa Report’s tension.
For all of that, the movie has some flaws. Most notably, these characters are not well developed. At times, they blend into each other, especially before the thirty-minute mark (give or take) when Cordero and Writer Phillip Gellat finally give us a mockumentary introduction to each astronaut’s role on the spaceship. Insofar as we do not know the characters all that well, we don’t agonize over the film’s tragedies as much as it hopes we will. I’m not saying Europa Report is emotionally empty; I’m suggesting it’s not as powerful as it might have been with better developed characters.
Similarly, the actors do not capture the same level of emotion as Sandra Bullock in Gravity, or, frankly, as Europa Report’s screenplay intends. None of the actors are bad, certainly, but none of them are great either. They’re all fine. No more. No less. The closest to standout performances come from Anamaria Marinca as Rosa Dasque and Michael Nyqvist as Andrei Blok.
Despite these flaws, Europa Report maintains suspense and intrigue, always holding attention, always making us wonder what will happen next and always remaining entertaining. In so doing, it makes us feel its cautionary theme. Honestly, is constant exploration and expansion necessary? Does it really improve our lives?