1 hour 30 minutes, 6.5/10 from 58,642
Sy Fy, drama, mystery, documentary, these are all terms that might apply to this film. In it a multi-national, multi-ethnic crew pilots a spaceship from Earth to Europa, a large moon of Jupiter. Europa is an ice world and where there is ice there might be now or once water, and where there is water, there might be life. That is why Europa.
There is not a uniform or rank in sight. This mission is that of private company. Shades of the Alien franchise.
The approach is near documentary and the time line is jumbled as new data is made available. The perspective is a forensic investigation into what went wrong, using video sent back by the ship. ‘Everything’ is the short answer. The company CEO reports on the mission … [to the shareholders]? It was amusing to imagine Richard Branson doing this, flipping his hair, flashing his teeth, and thrusting forward the hips, as he does.
We are treated to the starry firmament and the awe of the deep and dark unknown. There is much display of the tedious work of running a spaceship. William Xu is in command but there is much discussion, but no one ever calls him captain.
The crew before....there were none.
Repairs have to be made and are routine,… not all. One repair requires an EVA and when a bolt flies out, the first crewman is lost, drifting off into the void in radio contact for a while…. No bang, just a whimper.
They land on Europa, as per plan, leaving the orbiter above. It is indeed ice, but not solid. Hmm. Will the ice withstand the weight of the lander? It seems OK. They do some ice fishing, cutting a hole and dropping a probe down into…. yes, it is water. The data streams in, then the probe stops. Huh? What happened? An IOS update? Flat battery? One of the crew goes to change the battery and sees the ice cracking and… Two down.
Another one forgot to fasten the seat belt. Whack. Three down.
So it goes until only one is left.
These are explorers like those who went with Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Captain Cook, Marco Polo, Edmund Hilary, Robert Scott, Thor Heyerdahl, and their ilk. They want to know what is there, and send that knowledge back to Earth. Or the scientists like Marie Curie who exposed or injected themselves to their discoveries to see what happens.This desire to know kills each of them one-by-one like the Agatha Christie story shorn of the evil mastermind making it happen. Just the laws of physics.
The film is distinctive in good part for what is not there.
1.There are no meteors to provide an easy crisis. This is the oldest chestnut in the Sy Fy writer's manual.
2.There is nothing military about the exercise, and no weapons of any kind were on show. No wonder the NRA banned it.
3.There are no political echoes from Earth of any kind. No scheming Russians, no holy Greenies, no nothing of that sort. In no sense is this mission to save Earth, another common trope omitted.
4.There are two women in the crew of six, and there is nary a word about whether a woman could be a scientist and a woman, etc. All that tiresome, trite, and trivial nonsense so favoured by scriptwriters of Sy Fy in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Oddly, they got paid for writing such bilge. One hopes they are out of work today.
5.Although the mission is a private business there is none of the corporate chicanery beloved by the scripts in the Alien sequence. The CEO suppresses emotion at times recounting the fates of the minions.
6.There are daring deeds but no grandstanding heroics to pull off a miracle. It is realistic enough that most of the time crew members are wrapped in safety gear, which they do not rip off for close-ups pace ‘Arrival’ (2016). None have make-up like Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity’ (2013).
7.There is no creature in this feature. Much to the annoyance of the monkeys at keyboards who have commented on IMDb and You Tube. Yes, they do find an amoebae of sorts in the water and that is life, and that is tremendously exciting, but that bug does not cause any trouble. It just is.
8.There is, mercifully, no comic relief. No character who tells jokes trying to be funny, emphasis on trying. This figure appears far too often and in many films the butt of the humour is woman. Glad to be rid of that.
9.And there is no salvation. They all die. Very lifelike.