2013 saw the release of a lot of great films, but when discussing science fiction films of this particular year, it is likely that the two to immediately come up will be either Elysium or Gravity. You might not immediately be aware of another science fiction film during that year, Europa Report.
I first heard of Sebastián Cordero's film Europa Report when I received a tip towards a special one-time screening. Unfortunately, the screening was only happening once and was timed so perfectly as to ensure there was no way I could make it. I subsequently vowed that one way or another I would find a way to see it. Unfortunately I was never able to find it on DVD, but after discovering it to be available on American Netflix I finally have had a chance to watch it, and it is really something.
If you've been following my blog (assuming you didn't just stumble across this article through a Google search or something), you probably know that I'm a big fan of science fiction. I've already reviewed the older, earlier attempt at hard science fiction Conquest of Space from 1955, and I've voiced my passion for Stanley Kubrick's 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey and discussed Gravity in minor detail. This is the kind of film that ranks alongside those (among other hard sci-fi classics like Destination Moon, Contact, and Moon)
Much like the aforementioned movies, Europa Report is an effort to realistically envision the first mission to Jupiter's moon Europa while also exploring the long-discussed possibility of life existing under its surface. The story centers around a crew of six astronauts who are sent on this mission, but along the way they face unforeseen problems and extreme dangers that could cost them their lives.
Interestingly, though, unlike those films, Europa Report opts for a documentary-like style similar to District 9. I'm not normally a fan of "found footage" movies (if only because it's a bit cliche now) but here it is actually executed surprisingly well. The acting is fairly solid and the documentary style adds a level of authenticity to what we're seeing.
Of course the visuals and the science are incredible. The affects used to simulate weightlessness are solid and the design of the ship is also really impressive, with an appropriate sense of disorientation due to the environment. Then of course there's the shots of Jupiter and the impressive shots of Europa itself (which I dare say are on par with those of 2001: A Space Odyssey), both from orbit and the landscapes on its surface. That's not even getting into the incredible underwater scenes.
Above we have the landing sequence from Europa Report, below an actual photo of Europa.
The take-off scene of Europa Report (2013) has the two pilots appearing to be in front while the area that is usually treated as the "floor" (relatively speaking) appears in the background. Compare that to a similar trick used for the launch sequence in Conquest of Space (1955)
Europa Report is an excellent film. It is a brilliant piece of science fiction that sadly went unnoticed last year and is definitely worth your time. If you'd like a creative science fiction film with some emotional drama, incredible scientific realism, a few tense sequences, and a plot dealing with some intriguing subject matter, it is almost certainly worth checking out.