Best Under-the-radar Movies #4: Europa Report

Europa Report
USA, 2013
Directed by Sebastián Cordero
Written by Philip Gelatt

Available to stream on Netflix

europa-report-movieDue to its success on Netflix, Europa Report isn’t strictly under-the-radar, but I feel the need to mention it here because I think it has gotten the shaft in a big way. Last year, Hollywood’s darling space thriller Gravity was lauded for months on end as being an instant classic, a brilliant spectacle of science fiction. In contrast,  Europa Report racked up a whopping two award nominations worldwide.

If you’ve read my other reviews and have any sense of my taste in movies, you might be able to predict what I’ll say next. Ready?

Europa Report is a better movie than Gravity.

Hold on. Didn’t Gravity have some of the coolest, most realistic, most inventive special effects? Yes indeed. Didn’t it have incredible acting and star power? Yup. Didn’t it take home 7 Academy Awards? You bet it did.

But are these the criteria we should be using to gauge the quality of movies? Let me introduce another movie into this mix. I’ll go with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Let’s analyze.

Special effects: Great for the time, but kiddie stuff compared to Gravity.
Star power: Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. Who?
Acting: Good enough.
Oscars: 1

So Gravity is a better movie, right? Hahahahahahahahaha. Never. Not a chance. 2001 is arguably the best movie ever made. Did I bring it up just to rant about how overrated Gravity is? No. I brought it up because Europa Report has a lot in common with it.

maxresdefaultFirst the obvious, both films are about a trip to the Jupiter system. 2001 has a group of astronauts hunting the source of the mysterious, now iconic monolith. This eventually leads them on a quest to Jupiter. In Europa Report the hunt is on for alien life on the titular moon Europa.

But the specifics of location are less important than the motivation. In each movie there is an excitement in the air, and also a sense of purpose. In Europa Report, the characters are portrayed as true scientists and explorers–people ready to sacrifice anything for the mission. This is made all the more compelling because of their connection with loved ones back home. The story is told using a series of recovered recordings from the ship. The personal messages from the crew members’ computers are touching and honest and sad, and they turn a story about space exploration into a story about exploring human fear and desire.

Europa Report is incredibly nice to look at considering its sub-$10 million budget. Director Sebastián Cordero went more for the nuts and bolts than he did for the fancy special effects and he made a damned convincing atmosphere that never disturbed my suspension of disbelief. I highly suggest this movie because it will pull you into its story–into the adventure, into the characters’ thoughts, and into the passion for discovery.

Note: I don’t think Europa Report even approaches the quality of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hardly any movies do. I also don’t think Gravity is a bad movie. I liked it, but it’s overrated.IMG_9445


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