Europa Report is mesmerized by science. On a 21 month mission to Jupiter’s icy moon, the five person crew aboard a research vessel bond over their excitement to find life. Cinematic happenings say things must go wrong.

The multinational crew embark from Earth privately funded, either a means of working around NASA imagery or striking at political nonsense which has crushed abilities to explore space. Add meaningful weight by using the latter reason. Mission parameters run smoothly until freak solar storms eliminate communication with Earth’s surface, leaving the mission blind.

Europa explores aspects of droning, repetitious, and mentally draining space life, cautiously employing science to explain survival methods. Moments of fear and tension craft themselves from this perceived reality, particularly during a daring space walk to repair specific systems. Europa Report is nothing short of harrowing when it wants to be.

Told out sequence, plot backtracking will intelligently piece together moments of thrilling scientific breakthrough and their cost, backing them up with notable characters. Exposition is smooth, logically embedded, and wholly unique considering its determined approach to authenticity in otherworldly space exploration.

Something is (of course) on Europa. Splashes of heightened radiation and dazzling light shows befuddle the grounded crew. Underneath surface ice lies an ecosystem, interfering and disruptive to numerous technological systems. Each crew member makes split decisions based on shared purpose, considering the weight of their own lives against monumental discovery potential. Europa Report is deeply personal and addicted to possibilities, even if they carry grim circumstances.

Titling is specific: This is a report, detailed in a bevy of “found” footage without logical means for transmission. Europa is tightly contained despite swells of special effects enormity, held back from striking visual capacity by low resolution feeds or cruddy angles. It is an attempt at budget hiding and simulated authenticity, which ultimately drains cinematic flair. Scale is squandered from the lens of on-board cameras.

Brushing aside its tired gimmick, Europa maintains an intellectual and thought provoking premise. Images of distress, some bound to be drawn into comparisons with Gravity, work only after strengthening and acceptance of this crew. Their internal and external monologues lend credence to their personal actions. Whereas many of these films wander into mental breakdown, Europa avoids breaking down into tempting tropes. This crew belongs to space, and appreciates opportunity even if becomes their final one. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

The crew.

On the visual scale, there is nothing Europa won’t touch, positive or negative. Mostly invested in dull blue tint with squandered black levels and softened fidelity, this is not primed for typical Blu-ray depth. Resolution is fit enough to divulge visual cues inside ship cabins, while providing spectacular planetary vistas.

Noise is ever present, an element which glazes almost every frame in various degrees. Certain shots will balloon in intensity, adding static to enhance perceived low grade camera qualities. Never mind such a near future mission would contain at least a handful of high-end camera technologies.

There is fidelity, designated to shots pieced together from Earth interviews and those inside of space suits. In the latter, cameras on the inside of helmets offer intensely tight views of the specific crew member with the help of blossoming light sources. Contrast from the sun is intense.

Millennium’s encode is shoved onto a BD-25, and if the AVC driven compression produces artifacts, they cloak themselves as part of the source. It makes sense for beamed footage to carry imprecision. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]

Much of this space faring adventure ignores surround channels, choosing instead to feed data into split stereos and the subwoofer. Highlights are certainly take-offs and landings – there are multiple instances – proving adept at creating atmosphere whether rear channels are actively engaged or not. Europa’s insistence on not being explored leads to ice shifts which slam the landing pod’s interior. The effect is unsettling.

Segments underwater or depicting solar flares also ramp up the aural spectrum, something to be excited for when this DTS-HD mix engages in full. Certain intended scares provide ample jumps in volume, fun blips within an otherwise marginal design. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Two featurettes and a behind-the-scenes still gallery (spoiler: lots of green screen) make up bonuses. Exploring the Visual Effects details the designs and their application in the finished film. The Musical Journey hones in the scoring methodology. The two pieces combine for around 12 minutes of content. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]

Note: Technical problems mean time stamps would have been inaccurate, thus screens are presented without them.

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