Europa Report is a low budget sci fi thriller directed by Sebastián Cordero and starring Sharlto Copley, Embeth Davidtz, Michael Nyqvist and Dan Fogler. The plot features six astronauts who take part in a privately funded space flight to Europa on a quest to see if there is alien life on the moon, scientists also believe that there is an ocean beneath the moons icy surface and are keen to explore this theory. Due to a technical error one of the crew members dies and the others lose the ability to communicate with NASA back on Earth, the crew spend the movie trying to find a way to reconnect with mission control and survive when more things go wrong and their lives are endangered.

Low budget sci fi films have always been popular and some excellent ones have been released over the past few years like Moon by Duncan Jones which was outstanding. Europa Report also stands out as it has a good cast, very good special effects despite the limited budget and a realistic approach to its subject matter. The story is told through found footage via the cameras on the space ship and this gives the film a sense of realism. The scenes in the trailer that show the astronauts on the ship talking about their mission look authentic and resemble real life videos taken by astronauts in space. Apparently NASA were consulted during the filming to make sure the dialogue and set design were  realistic and convincing, it seems the director was keen to ensure the film had a lot of attention to detail and it shows in the trailer.

The trailer has footage of the crew talking at a press conference before they leave Earth and taking part in interviews where they express their thoughts on the mission. These scenes also add to the documentary feel of the movie and provide some nice background to the characters. The scenes in space are awe inspiring and the good special effects really help here, there are also quite a few dutch angle shots which remind us that the spacemen are working in a very unusual environment. Other found footage camera effects are also used including shots where the picture on-screen becomes distorted because of some interference, or the screen flickers as if the cameras are running out of power and are liable to shut down. These shots add to the tension when things in the movie inevitably go wrong and they are shown towards the end of the trailer.

All the actors look convincing in the trailer and appear to give good performances, the relationships between the characters will be interesting to watch as it would be difficult to live in such close proximity with other people for so long on a space flight. There is always tension in situations like that and that tension is ratcheted up when equipment starts to malfunction and lives are in peril. Sharlto Copley must love sci fi as he has done some excellent work in the genre, it is also surprising to see Embeth Davidtz and Michael Nyqvist in the film as they don’t appear that often in movies these days. Plot details are scarce in the trailer which is good as it would spoil fun if the viewer knew exactly what happened to the crew on Europa. The basic premise is also simple enough that it doesn’t need too much explanation, all of the detail and complexity seems to be in the character relationships and the space flight itself where technical errors are common. This is a nice approach to take and the film should benefit from it.

The found footage genre has been over saturated with mediocre horror flicks lately and it is cool to see the concept used in what appears to be an intelligent sci fi instead. This ubiquitous filming style works well in Europa Report and doesn’t feel out of place like it does in some films, in fact the found footage method looks like it was made for films like this.

If Europa Report can balance the human drama with the tension and perils of space flight it will do well. There is no official UK release date yet but keep a look out for it.