Archive for March 8th, 2015

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I admit it. I’m a sucker for movies that DON’T preach at you. I’m always intrigued when a filmmaker presents a story, but allows me to draw my own conclusions, if only because I might end up examining why I came to the conclusions I did. Europa Report is one of those films.

The story is presented in a disjointed, voyeuristic way, as it is told as much through the cameras mounted throughout the spaceship and on the astronauts themselves, as it is through the more “strightforward” scenes filmed from a perspective within the action.

It starts at a point where the ship has already been en route to Europa long enough that Earth is no longer visible to the astronauts aboard. Through the mounted cameras, we see the crew going on about their daily routines, as something unexpected occurs, which cuts off the ship’s communication feed to Earth.

The film jumps forward a few days, and the conversations and actions we see make it clear that one of the crew is dead, communications are still out, and the crew is discussing whether to continue with the mission. We are also able to see that the crew is also concerned about the well-being of a male member of the crew who appears to be the oldest one among them.

Through flashbacks on Earth, we learn that the trip is a privately funded venture which was started after unmanned probes gathered data indicating water under the ice of Europa, along with thermal pockets which caused speculation about the possibility of life in the vast ocean there. Because of this, the company which made this discovery decided to send a manned expedition to learn more, and they assembled an international crew thought to comprise the best of the best. We also learn that the CEO continued in her belief that the mission was proceeding, even after they had lost contact with the ship.

Through the flashbacks from the ship, we meet the crew, and get a glimmer of their motivations for strapping themselves to a bomb, and hurtling themselves through the cold darkness to a meeting with the unknown, how they lost a crew member, and his act of heroism, and the subsequent toll it took on the survivors as they continued the mission.

When they finally reach Europa, their plans for the surface mission are again scrambled by events that they couldn’t anticipate, making it necessary for one of the crew to go outside to try to gather some of the data that they came so far to get. Staying almost to the end of her standard EVA time, she finally finds a unicellular life form which she likens to algae. When she sees something witnessed by the remaining flight engineer alone the day before, she naturally went to investigate. Because the cameras in the suits look at the astronaut’s faces and not at what the astronaut sees, we, and her crewmates know that she enountered…something…before she wound up under the ice, and communications were abruptly severed.

From this point, unforeseen events continue to snowball, until it is revealed that the astronauts never left Europa, but did manage to repair their communications array and transmit everything that happened from the point they lost contact with Earth, to their own last moments, ending with the CEO speaking about the crew’s sacrifice, and the final image transmitted, proving that there was indeed life on Europa, and that we weren’t alone in the universe. As I watched this, and listened, I couldn’t help but to regard this with the perspective of a professional. The CEO didn’t have the luxury of government immunity, and it was clear that while some of the things that went horribly wrong could not have been planned for, that wouldn’t stop some people from claiming otherwise, and that given how some of them had died, it seemed to me that she was trying to put a smiley face on what had been a terrible first contact situation.

I can’t say that Europa Report is a movie that I would watch again, but I did appreciate how the filmmakers got out of the way, and let the story tell itself. I liked the fact that the makers chose to eschew the typical bull-in-a-chinashop subtlety usually employed in such movies, allowing the viewer to enjoy their own anxieties and and resignations as the expedition came to a very different end than the ones its sponsors had planned.

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