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With: Embeth Davidtz, Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Dan Fogler, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Written by: Philip Gelatt
Directed by: Sebastián Cordero
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action and peril
Running Time: 90
Date: 08/16/2013

Europa Report (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Shadow of Jupiter

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Presented in a "found footage" style, the new sci-fi Europa Report is much like Apollo 18, but much, much better. In fact, it embodies the best of the genre. Like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, it gets by on sound, suggestion, mood, and the power of the unseen, rather than shock or gore. It uses its time to build a generous rapport between the astronauts. They gently tease one another, but there's very little vulgarity or sexual innuendo to turn things sour. When things start to happen, each tragedy is deeply felt.

Six astronauts (Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, and Sharlto Copley) embark upon a lengthy and potentially dangerous mission to Jupiter's fourth-largest moon, Europa. Their goal is to dig under the ice on the surface and search for life forms. On earth, Dr. Samantha Unger (Embeth Davidtz) tries to monitor the mission but also must deal with faulty communications. Accidents begin to happen, and before long these things begin to look like more than accidents. Strange lights appear, and the astronauts' options begin to grow less and less. Before long, the mystery of life on other planets clashes with the reality of whether they will get out of there alive.

Additionally, director Sebastián Cordero -- who also made the very good Crónicas -- seems to have used actual NASA footage of things like solar flares for a very realistic touch. Indeed, it's difficult to tell the effects shots from the real thing. The sense of isolation and high-stakes survival is clearly palpable. Only a few niggling little details keep it from being a great film, but it's surely a good one, and better still, it's a smart one.

Magnet has released a fine new Blu-ray. The cinematography isn't exactly the point here, but the rich details in the static surveillance camera shots are now nicely vivid; the movie looks more at home in high-def Blu-ray than it would have on the big screen. The extras aren't too exciting, just two very short featurettes on the visual effects and music, photos, and trailers.

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