Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sebastián Cordero's EUROPA REPORT-- yet another found-footage space movie

First the good stuff: EUROPA REPORT, the new film from Sebastián Cordero (Rage and Chronicles), boasts a classy cast, a compact running time, and looks very good -- with a technical sheen and prowess that made this particular civilian sit up and take notice. Once notice was taken, however, a kind of boredom soon set in and TrustMovies had to pinch himself occasionally in order to stay awake. This is yet another in the found-footage, space-travel, would-be-documentary genre -- of which Apollo 18 may have been the most recent (and, in fact, a bit better) example.

Those of you old enough to recall George Pal's Destination Moon, another technically astute (for its time) sci-fi movie, may understand what I'm getting at here. We don't have to have monsters in our mission-to-Mars, Jupiter or the moon movies, but golly, they do help ward off the sleepies that sometimes arise from an emphasis on the technical. And -- spoiler ahead -- Europa Report even includes its own "creature," though Señor Cordero (shown at right, in black) and his screenwriter Philip Gelatt make us wait until the final few minutes to even get a glimpse of it.

Europa Report is certainly classier overall that any other "found footage" movie in any genre that I have seen, and its emphasis on sacrifice and the love for their chosen field that at least some of the crew (above, with Daniel Wu shown center), as well as those in charge back home on earth (Embeth Davidtz, below) exhibit goes a certain distance in making the movie a bit more moving than others in this genre. (Though it doesn't come close to the emotion that Brian De Palma managed to wring from the ending of his under-rated Mission to Mars.)

We do get this deeper sense of purpose from characters such as Dr. Petrovna (played by Karolina Wydra, below).

We might also get something deeper, if we knew more about him, from the slightly distur-bed Andrei Blok, played by Michael Nyqvist, shown at left, the very good Swedish actor best known as the journalist from the original Dragon Tattoo series, who is now cropping up in American films of the good variety (Disconnect), the so-so (Abduction) and the way over-blown (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).

Then there are the other crew members like the two guys (Christian Camargo, above, and Sharlto Copley, below), whose distinguishing features are "family" and "jokiness." When the crew begins, one by one, to leave us, we'd like to be able to feel something more than the usual, Who's next? This is difficult when we know so little about them.

The crew member we most identify with is probably the pilot (that fine Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca, below, of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Storm) who sticks to her guns and by virtue of sheer specificity and strength (we know no more about her than we do anyone else) impresses us. Granted, it is difficult in only 90 minutes to render anything approaching depth-of-character in a space/sci-fi movie, but this task would seem not to have been important on the agenda of the filmmakers.

Consequently, the film ends up a relatively smart mix of talking heads, would-be found-footage and sci-fi mockumentary -- without a lick of humor. It could have been a lot worse, but with real artists in command, it also might have been thrilling, meaningful, moving.

Oh, yes -- something should be said about the heavy-duty, ramped-up musical score. Found-footage now comes with its own musical score? Hmmm. Well, some audiences will fall for just about anything.

Europa Report, from Magnet Releasing, opens this Friday, August 2, in New York (Cinema Village), Washington DC (E Street Cinema) ad Hollywood (Sundance Sunset Cinemas). You can see all of the currently scheduled 15-cities opening by clicking here.


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