We are not alone: That’s what the six astronauts (of both genders and many nations) aboard a privately funded expedition to Jupiter’s fourth moon, Europa, aim to prove. Sebastián Cordero’s gripping found-footage-style feature is presented as an after-the-fact documentary, with a stoic mission-control commander (Embeth Davidtz) acting as occasional narrator for video captured inside and outside the module during its two-year-plus voyage.
The sights are gorgeous—a seamless mix of archival imagery and impressively rendered digital views of our galaxy—and the science is, to layman’s eyes and ears, more than credible. There’s a lost-in-space sequence that beautifully straddles the line between tech-head authenticity and nerve-shredding cinematic suspense. (It helps that the eclectic international cast—including everyone from District 9’s Sharlto Copley as the starry-eyed family man to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’ Anamaria Marinca as a quick-thinking science officer—creates a believable, emotionally involving rapport.) Once the crew lands on Europa, the film falls back on some slasher-movie goosing that slightly cheapens the otherwise admirable, 2001-like philosophical inquiry. The journey ends up being a tad more satisfying than the destination.
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