There’s a subset of sci-fi movies whose setting is a spaceship in deep space and whose cast of characters begins small and gets smaller. They include John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974) and Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running (1972) and, perhaps in a stretch, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972).
Europa Report, directed by Sebastian Cordero, is an intelligent addition to the list, particularly due to its additional dynamic, that of the group under psychological pressure, pressure that will force the group to cohere or disintegrate.
Briefly, the plot, which is told retrospectively, is about a months-long expedition to one of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Because of the possible presence of water, the moon is considered a likely home to cellular life and so a small crew of scientists and pilots have been sent out to take samples. This physically enclosed group have to endure the inevitable friction of cashing personalities, lethal accidents and, once they get to Europa, strange and deadly, if apparently primitive, life forms.
Cordero delivers all the necessaries: The stark contrast of space’s enormousness and its consequent physical and psychological claustrophobia; a shooting style which, again and again, creates a palpable reality of emotional stress and bonding; and a moody lighting scheme that manages to combine dramatic needs with plausible ambient light sources.
Europa Report is in sum a good movie, intriguing and intelligent. Fewer and fewer of those these days.