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Saturday, October 10, 2015

HubrisWeen 3, Day 5: Europa Report (2013)

Written by Philip Gelatt
Directed by Sebastian Cordero

The Europa I crew:

Daniel Wu:  Captain William Xu
Anamaria Marinca:  Rosa Dasque
Karolina Wydra:  Dr. Katya Petrovna
Michael Nyqvist:  Dr. Andrei Blok
Christian Camargo:  Dr. Daniel Luxembourg
Sharlto Copley:  James Corrigan

Mission Control:
Embeth Davidtz:  Dr. Samantha Unger
Isiah Whitlock, Jr.:  Dr. Pamuk
Dan Fogler:  Dr. Sokolov

So I'm trying to watch more recent horror movies for this year's HubrisWeen, which is a good idea because even though I'm officially middle-aged I like to pretend I'm hip and with it (SPOILER:  Nope). And I really haven't seen a heck of a lot of newer material in the genre--I've somehow managed not to see a single Paranormal Activity or Saw movie yet and tapped out of the Final Destination series about ten minutes into the third one when the accident played out exactly the same even though a character dropped something that was a contributing factor to the psychic vision of the big setpiece. So, yeah, I'm a pedantic nerd, but if you've read anything else on the Checkpoint you knew that instantly. Europa Report is new (released in 2013), and it's also a movie that Doug Hudson, one of my regular commenters, recommended to me. I think this means that Checkpoint Telstar officially takes requests.

The opening is intriguing, and sets things up about as effectively and cleverly as the start of Cube. After a caption explaining that Europa I was the first manned mission into deep space, an astronaut's Skype message to his child is the first dialogue. In the background of that scene and the foreground of others there are astronauts doing space stuff. An external shot of the ship, also named Europa I, suggests that the film takes place in the relatively distant future and the dialogue (the astronaut mentions they've been traveling for six months) lets an attentive viewer know that it might be science fiction, but the ship isn't capable of faster-than-light travel; closer to what is theoretically possible than something like a warp drive or hyperspace travel (which are necessary for anything that's going to take place in another star system, but don't exist now and are thought to be impossible based on the current understanding of physical law). That also means, assuming the Europa I mission is going to Jupiter, that any radio communications with them will have a (very, very) roughly 86 minute turnaround*--the ship is distant enough that radio waves would take 43 minutes to get to Earth and assuming a response was given instantly, it would take 43 minutes to get back to the ship. There's chatter from Mission Control in the background dialogue, but whatever is going on in the mission, the astronauts are going to have to figure it out for themselves.

*The average distance from Earth to Jupiter is 5.2 AU (1 AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun), which works out to 2594 light-seconds, or 43.2333 light-minutes. If someone on the Europa I ship wanted to tell a knock-knock joke to someone on Earth it'd take three hours and thirty-six minutes to get all the way through it at best. Any communication where time was a factor couldn't even be attempted.

Just as the movie starts teaching the viewer how it's going to be filmed--which, at least at the start, will be with fixed cameras showing a certain room inside the Europa I or an area of its hull on the outside, but with more than one camera view available as a half or quarter of the frame--static and interference overwhelm the picture and the screen freezes up before going dead. Dr. Samantha Unger's voiceover informs the audience that what we just watched were the final transmissions from the expedition. Then we get what looks like a vlog entry or possibly TV interview footage from Dr. Unger herself, with a screen caption identifying her as the CEO of the space exploration firm that sent the doomed mission out, as well as the architect of the Europa I mission. If this was a corporate mission, she's got one hell of a tax writeoff coming up but also some explaining to do to a room full of furious stockholders.

The next caption says there were thousands of hours of footage that is now available (it's supposed to be "declassified", but if Europa Ventures is a corporation, not a government, they wouldn't have been able to "classify" anything in the first place, so perhaps the craft was a cooperative venture between a corporation and a government, just like Telstar I, the namesake of this very review blog).

The first shot of the new footage is group of astronauts together in the living quarters, their body language showing shock and sadness. One of them says "We have to tell his family", which is not the kind of sentence that you hear and think things have worked out well. Two other people say that's impossible, because the communication system is broken and never got fixed properly. They're not in contact with their Mission Control people on Earth and one of the astronauts asks if they're going to proceed. Then it's over to Dr. Unger to explain that Mission Control notified her of the loss of communications with Europa I, and that by the time she reached the facility there were fifteen hours of no contact with the ship.

Footage of the astronauts reveal that one of them has died, and that they're aware of the impossibility of contacting Earth at this point--it's likely that Mission Control fears or expects all of them to be dead, but the mission is still going to go forward. It's just that now everyone's feeling bleak about it. Various sequences of the astronauts not talking to each other or confessing their feelings to the camera ensue. They all obviously knew the risks of space travel (especially going to Jupiter; that's orders of magnitude more difficult than a Moon landing and if anything goes awry during the several-month journey to the fifth planet it will mean everyone in the crew dies instantly), but it's one thing to know about the hazards of one's profession intellectually and another to see them play out in front of you. Plus there's completely unforeseen psychological and physiological effects on anyone that would be traveling in space for a prolonged period of time. Radiation exposure, muscle loss due to low or nonexistent gravity, the psychological toll it takes being cooped up in a small space with the same people for months and even just having to smell your shipmates for two hundred days or so would all start to work on the human psyche. There are predictions about how these things would play out, I'm sure, but predictions and reality are often quite different. I'm sure the astronauts were all chosen after extensive testing to see how they'd get along with each other for a year in a big tin can, but again--theory is one thing, practice is another.

Also, I dig that there's two Russians on the crew and that the captain is Asian--cosmonauts and a taikonaut are on the crew and that I shouldn't just refer to all of them as "astronauts". But that's pretty clumsy and you're not reading Checkpoint Sputnik, so astronauts they are.

There's some onboard-life footage (including one of the crew getting a haircut; I imagine loose snippets of hair floating around in zero-G and getting into the systems would be one way to accidentally destroy the entire ship). A few bursts of static and snippets of footage fill the screen and then there's a "19 months, 10 days, 14 hours - Earlier" caption. So we're probably going to find out just what happened to that crew member that everyone was mourning.

News footage of the Europa I pre-launch press conference drops exposition on the audience (I like that the crawl caption at the bottom of the screen is one of the information vectors here). It's a one-shot manned mission to one of the moons of Jupiter because NASA found the possibility of life there with an earlier probe. But drones and robots can't explore and do science the way human beings can, so it's a nearly four billion dollar ship that will be sent out to Jupiter in order to look for the possibility of extraterrestrial life. It is, of course, hugely risky and there's no guarantee that there's anything to find when they get there. But the first launch goes off well and the vessel is constructed in Earth orbit over the next year and a half (it's too large to be constructed on Earth and launched to Jupiter--additionally, the things like the solar panels and spinning habitat modules, to give the crew at least partial gravity while they're travelling, can be built and deployed in space in ways that would never work on Earth--there's no need to worry about aerodynamic construction if the vehicle isn't going to spend any time in an atmosphere). I feel a little weird mentioning this stuff in the review, because I figure anyone willing to plow through five thousand words per review per day during HubrisWeen probably already knows most if not all of this stuff. But if you're a person who didn't think of this yet, then 1) thanks for reading, and 2) thanks for making it necessary for me to explain.

Eventually things get underway and the Europa I leaves on its mission. During the shot of the crew unbuckling from their launch chairs, pretty good CGI is used to show the seat belts moving around in zero-G while the actors are still in standard gravity. I really liked the way the filmmakers paid attention to that detail. Obviously there's no way for this movie to rent a vomit comet to film a few seconds of weightlessness, and if they did it wouldn't be for that scene. The crew settles in to routine as the voyage hits day 02. Incidentally, I have to be kind of snide about there being a "month" counter on the timer since months are not of a standard length. There's no way the precision necessary to have a voyage to Jupiter would also have enough wiggle room for a time unit that could be 28 days long or 31, depending on how things shake out.

One of the astronauts, James Corrigan, is keeping a video diary of the trip for his son, and it looks like he's going to be our Odious Comic Relief. He's played by science-fiction cinema notable Sharlto Copley, who is probably best known for turning into an insectile alien in District 9. He's pretty irritating, and I don't remember seeing him in the earlier shots of the crew talking about losing someone, so I'm betting his character is a dead man walking. He's also playing rap over the ship's PA, which contradicts one of the sacred road-trip rules:  Whoever is driving picks the music. The video diary explains some of the realities of long-term space travel re: simulated gravity and bone density problems, which is a neat way to have the a character explain things that everyone in the film would already know. Corrigan is the mechanical and electrical engineer for the ship, tasked with repair and maintenance for everything that's keeping people alive. Which makes Corrigan the direct descendant of Joe the Brooklyn guy from Destination Moon. It's also a sequence of handheld first-person camerawork inside an existing found-footage movie, which is pretty cool. And the zero-gravity sequences are pretty well handled once Corrigan leaves his habitat module. The shot of Corrigan looking through the video camera out the window at the front of the cockpit as the stars come into focus is something really special, too. I'm glad the filmmakers took the time to incorporate beauty and poetry into their film because it's about exploration and the human desire to learn new things. It should have moments like that.

There's another exposition drop here, where the scientists of the Europa Project explain that one of Jupiter's moons was thought to be a giant ice ball, but robotic exploration showed the possibility of liquid water underneath all that ice. Some scientists think that one of the reasons life exists on Earth is that there's a narrow enough temperature band that solid, liquid and gaseous water are all available here. If there's liquid and solid water on Europa, it's possible that some kind of life developed there as well. There's a particular region on Europa that showed up warmer on infrared than other spots, so the crew of Europa I will try to get to that spot and check things out. There's also a clip of authentic Science Badass Neil Degrasse Tyson talking about wanting to drop a submersible into the water on Europa and see what shows up to lick the camera lens of that craft. Seeing him in a fictional narrative helps me accept that there's some real science in the fiction rather than the SCIENCE! that one usually gets in this genre.

A very good point is raised during the first meal time that we see--who puts lots of garlic in rations that are going to be consumed in space? Well, at least everyone's going to have dragon breath at the same time. There's plenty of camaraderie among the crew, which is a word I never spell correctly on the first try. While they're still close to Earth, there's also contact with Mission Control about some of the flaws and bugs in the ship's systems; like any other endeavor, Europa I has unforeseen complications that only shake out in the field. One of those complications is that the recycling systems on the ship mean that everyone's drinking distilled urine rather than fresh water after the first couple of days. In other news, I no longer want to be an astronaut. After the six-month-anniversary celebration dinner, we get more Brady Bunch grids of different camera views and Andrei the cosmonaut screams for half a second in one of them before the feed cuts out.

After showing that something bad has happened, it's time for talking-head interviews with the crew that were recorded before the launch--this film skips back and forth in time to increase suspense and deliver exposition at appropriate times. This is where the audience actually learns all the characters' names and crew positions (which makes it sort of like Ravenous; that's a movie where the protagonist doesn't speak a full sentence until about twenty minutes in). Once that information has been absorbed it's back to Andrei Blok screaming and the mission calendar lets us know that it's a year in, but no more information is given at this point.

Then a time-jump to nineteen and a half months (I really hate that they're using months) and the captain saying he's concerned that Andrei hasn't fully recovered from the psychological trauma of whatever happened at the one-year point (and Dr. Blok looks terrible; unshaven, bags under his eyes, obvious fatigue and stress and he's only wearing his uniform pants and T-shirt rather than the full outfit). For a rather low-budget movie, they paid attention to the right things. It really does look like footage shot months later rather than a costume change and some makeup to simulate that. Captain Xu says that it's a month from reaching Europa and obviously at that point everyone needs to be at a hundred percent. Andrei blows him off and leaves. But everything's probably going to work out okay.

Captain Xu and Dr. Luxembourg confer about what to do with Andrei; they decide that leaving him alone in the main ship for three weeks during the mission is asking for trouble and not taking their "remaining engineer" down in the landing module is also asking for trouble. Looks like Andrei's going to Europa along with everyone else.

They arrive at Jupiter (with an effect about as good as anything was going to look on this budget), and the crew's spirits lift--after so long traveling to their destination, finally they've arrived. I'm never going to like science-fiction movies that have noise in space, but I do like that parking the Europa I craft in its orbit takes time, effort and skill to bring off. Once the main ship is stable where it's supposed to be, the landing (and, one assumes, retrieval) craft is dropped down onto Europa. I appreciate that the space travel takes time--the ship doesn't drop down in seconds. And the pilot needs to steer it (and other crew members need to monitor the landing craft's systems) while it's dropping. As an added complication, a vent of hot gas escaping from a crack in the icy surface of Europa means they have to steer around it and still try to land where they were planning to land. As an even worse added complication, the pilot has to judge the rocket burn precisely--too short a blast means they'll crash and die, but too long a burn means they'll melt their landing site (which means either they sink into the liquid portion of the moon and die, or get stuck in the re-frozen ice and won't be able to leave again, and die). Space travel is not for wusses.

The landing craft makes it down without anyone dying, which is great news (I like the underplayed satisfaction from the pilot--no fist pumping or cheering, just quiet triumph). And the icy mountainscape outside the window looks alien and forbidding, but also strangely lovely. The people in the landing craft have gone further than anyone in human history to lay eyes on it, and they're appropriately awed. A clip from one of the scientists back on Earth points out that the heat plumes breaking out of cracks in the ice were exactly why that region of Europa was the landing site, but that their presence right when the ship was landing meant that they had to dodge away from where they wanted to be. I'm not sure that a mere 300-foot gap between the target zone and the actual landing site would really mean, but I'm also not an astrophysicist so I'll let it slide.

Because they aren't precisely where they wanted to be the landing craft isn't going to do a site analysis (I cannot quite bring myself to believe that the crew wouldn't just run the analysis where they landed rather than where they wanted to land), They decide to drill down through the ice and deploy a remote-control camera in the ocean instead. The hole bored through the ice makes the landing site a bit less stable than anticipated, and everyone starts working on the math to see what they might have to do now that they know more about the tidal forces and ice thickness of the section of Europa that they're currently sitting on. Meanwhile, Andrei Blok is screwing around with some electrical stuff in his cabin, and that's probably great news. He sees a flickering light outside--or at least thinks he does--and grabs a camera. Hey, I'm just happy to see him active and interested now. It happened too fast for him to get a video of it, but nobody in the craft accuses him of seeing things or making stuff up even when they don't see any evidence of whatever it was on the external cameras--at least at first.

Night falls and the crew tries to get some shut-eye (Andrei fails completely), and then there's a flashback to when Corrigan was still part of the crew. Andrei and Corrigan are arguing about the technicalities involved in a bet about whether or not there's going to be life on Europa and then both of them turn to plenty of good-natured chaffing towards Dr. Luxembourg when he can't find his toothbrush ("Oh, we'll have to turn around and go back."). Then it's back to the landing site during the deepest, darkest hours of the night (the sunlight would be weak and attenuated there anyway, since they're five AU away from the sun at this point. Andrei still won't sleep, having become obsessed with the idea that he really did see something out there in the ice. He refuses a sleeping pill, claiming that he needs to stay sharp for when the whatever-it-is outside comes back.

The drill breaks through to the ocean underneath the landing site and the crew gets a look at the eerie blue world below them, complete with a ceiling made of sharp ice crystals. The camera gets steered over to one of the heat plumes for a sample run. The camera-drone has a microphone on it as well, and picks up a noise that sounds vaguely like whalesong (though Dr. Luxembourg says it's probably just some kind of echoing noise from farther below in the ocean, possibly caused by currents or tectonic plates clashing). Harder to explain are the flickering lights down in the water, so it's time to get the camerabot to take a closer look.

Well, when that happens, the probe has some kind of equipment failure. Checking over the tapes, it appears that something under the water smacked into the probe right before it went dead. The crew decides that going outside to take a closer look might be in the cards, which means that Dr. Unger gets cut into the narrative to talk about how EVA missions were worrisome because Jupiter is throwing off a lot of radiation, and there are plenty of things that can go wrong and kill an astronaut without adding that into the mix. Despite all the really good reasons not to go for a walk outside, Dr. Petrovna says she'll suit up and walk to the target zone for a quick sample-gathering mission--after all, it's quite close to the landing module. What could go wrong? Captain Xu is dead-set against it, and everyone else just argues and yells for one side or the other.

Time for another flashback, where Corrigan sends a video message back home to his wife and son; he's stressing a little over the sheer amount of their lives that he's missing while he's in space. The mission's taking longer than he intellectually knew when he signed up and they're only at the first part (this sequence takes place six months and change into the project). Missing Control sends a message that an external part of the ship needs to be checked and then says they've lost contact with Europa I--which should have a sizable delay on all the communications at this point thanks to the vast distances involved with interplanetary travel. It turns out to have been a solar storm that blew out the comms systems; Dr. Unger points out that broke some important parts of the ship that made it possible for Mission Control and Europa I to stay in contact. Andrei and Corrigan put on space suits and get ready to go outside and perform repairs. We all know what's going to happen to Corrigan in the broad strokes, but not exactly how it's going to go down.

Corrigan and Blok go out into space and the viewer gets to see things from the viewpoints of their helmet cameras as well as minicams that show the astronaut's face inside the suit. After several hours of repairs on things that are only accessible from outside the ship, and the last thing to be repaired is a burnt out circuit board. Of course it's stuck and in trying to get it out, Corrigan breaks part of it and a piece of debris rips a hole in Andrei's glove so he's venting life-support gases as well as losing pressure and heat. Corrigan hauls his colleague to the airlock and then discovers that he's got hydrazine all over his suit from when the stuck panel broke. If he goes into the ship the toxic material will spread through the air supply and kill everyone. There's no way to clean the suit off in the twenty minutes remaining of Corrigan's personal air supply, and Andrei needs to get on board before he runs out of air himself. The suicidally dangerous plan is for Andrei to pop Corrigan out of his suit and throw him into the airlock; Corrigan stands at least a small chance of not dying from vacuum exposure as opposed to the certainty of him dying if he stays out until he runs out of air or the entire crew getting killed if the hydrazine-covered suit is brought on board.

Corrigan throws Andrei into the airlock, which moves him backwards and away from the ship. He gets to see Europa I recede into the distance as Captain Xu expresses his sympathies. But there's nothing anyone can do with the equipment on board. Corrigan winds up drifting out of radio range as Andrei lives through the pressurization of the airlock. No wonder the guy had such horrible survivor's guilt. The man who saved his life winds up falling forever into space, dying the loneliest death that is possible for a human being. Andrei takes it incredibly badly, screaming as he floats in a cruciform posture.

Back in the present time, it's time for the crew to decide whether or not Dr. Petrovna will go out on a quick walk to place the sample-gathering equipment in the original landing zone. The captain and Andrei vote "no" and "HELL NO" respectively while Dr. Luxembourg and Dr. Petrovna say she should go out. Rosa, the pilot, casts the deciding vote saying that they went there to do science and exploration, and this is both. The doctor will suit up and go out for a strictly timed EVA while Dr. Luxembourg performs the analysis from inside the ship. Dr. Petrovna walks out to the surface, taking a moment to be properly awed that she's setting foot on an alien distant shore. Rosa has taken a position higher up in the landing module so she can see Dr. Petrovna out on the ice while the other crew members track her by radar and computer. The doctor sets up the sample analyzer and scoops up some ice fragments so that the expedition can check them out. The radiation from Jupiter spikes upward and the doctor has to return to the ship, but she gets one more sample that hasn't been scoured with radiation; that last sample has simple algae-like organisms in it. The Europa I mission has successfully found life on another world.

But on the way back to the ship, Dr. Petrova sees a flickering light and goes off to look at it; she gets the okay from the captain to go out and look for it. In a pool of shadow she sees a blue glow from something and wonders if her suit lights are attracting it. When she goes closer to the glowing thing, it turns out to be something underneath the ice that's giving off heat and radiation; the rads from the entity are also causing interference with the suit's radio and cameras. Unfortunately Petrova is so fascinated by what she's seeing that she doesn't notice how thin and fragile the ice is under her feet and it breaks, dropping her into the ocean. The radar tracker shows her position under she goes out of range and her face-cam in the helmet is lit with a blue glow (showing the approaching lifeform reflected in her pupils in a really amazing shot). And then the signal, and Dr. Katya Petrova, are gone forever.

The remaining crew members have to decide what to do next--if they stay and try to learn more about the creature under the ice, they risk death by any one of two dozen methods. If none of them make it back to the main ship and get back to Earth, nobody will ever learn what they've discovered. It's decided that finding a vastly complex ecosystem and two forms of life on Europa is knowledge that outweighs any other concerns and they'll be leaving for the main ship the next time the various heavenly bodies and the nose cone of their rocket are lined up properly. The launch goes wrong, though, and Captain Wu makes the command decision to land back on Europa rather than try to get up to the main ship. He also unstraps himself from his seat to blow water out of the ship's tanks as a way to create thrust and make the landing softer; this costs him his life upon impact with Jupiter's moon.

The ship's systems reboot after the crash (which might have been a pun the screenwriter snuck into the film) and the three remaining crew members take note of what's happened. Ironically, the landing module crashed onto the original spot they were supposed to hit. Unfortunately the ice there was much less stable than any of the data from the unmanned probes led the mission developers to believe. The ship is also losing oxygen and heat (and the loss of the water from the shielding tanks means they're also being exposed to high levels of radiation). So thermodynamics, the atmosphere and Our Friend the Atom are in a three-way competition to kill the crew. A fourth horse joins that race when Dr. Luxembourg discovers that the module is sinking into the ice and will be underwater in a few hours.

Andrei thinks he might be able to fix the propulsion system, which could possibly get them back into orbit and back to the main ship, but the ship starts cracking through the ice before much headway can be made on that project. Andrei figures that he and Dr. Luxembourg can go outside and work on the repairs as fast as they possibly can while Rosa does all the required pre-flight sequences inside the craft. If they're lucky, enough things will fail to go wrong and they won't all die on Europa. Which brings the narrative to its own present; the talking-head footage from the pilot is revealed to be an explanation of how things got to their present state as well as hope that they'll be able to return to Earth with the knowledge they've gained. If they don't make it, at least there's a record of what happened.

Andrei and Dr. Luxembourg go out to try and do what they can to the ship while Rosa shivers in the pilot's compartment. And the radiation flickers that herald the arrival of the blue creature start to show up; it's apparently curious about what's going on up at the top of its world. Andrei calls back in to the ship to tell Rosa to turn off the outside lights after Dr. Luxembourg loses contact with the ship--the ice broke under the astronaut and he fell into the ocean underneath the ice surface. Andrei looks at the damaged fuel lines and realizes that he can't do anything for them, but he can fix the communications array at the cost of the life support system for the module. If Rosa is willing to make the supreme sacrifice along with him, they'll be able to send their data back to Earth and reveal everything that they found on Europa. She agrees, and Andrei gets to work on the repair job, the ice crackling underneath him with every step. Those radiation flickers start up again while he's working, feverishly to make the improvised repairs. As the command module loses power in various places, the cameras go dead. The blue glow shows up under the ice while the pilot starts sending all the data off to Earth. Andrei's helmet cam starts to go dark as the ice breaks underneath him.

Rosa, alone in the cabin, sends off everything they've discovered as the radiation flickers start to overwhelm the remaining cameras. She then opens the hatch and lets water flood into the ship. The last thing she--and the audience--sees is the lashing tentacle of the blue-glowing creature exploring this strange new environment. At the moment of her death, the last crew member of the Europa I mission made sure something new was being discovered and sent back to a waiting Earth. And Dr. Unger realizes that the mission was a total success, although it was at the cost of the lives of everyone who went out to discover the truth about what was really there on an ice-shrouded moon of Jupiter.

Well, damn. I'm quite impressed. According to the IMDB, the budget for this movie was under ten million and they managed to make a science fiction movie with quite a bit of actual science in it (the instant communications between Mission Control and Europa I notwithstanding).  And I was expecting some kind of body-count thriller on Europa, but instead it was the incredible hazards of space travel itself that killed off the various crew members. The creatures on Europa only manifested curiosity towards the landing module--they never attacked it, just sorta swum near it and looked at things. It's quite a thoughtful movie and one that accepts that future space travel and exploration won't just be white dudes with crew cuts.

I wasn't used to found footage just being used for science fiction; even though I know it's shown up in several genres other than just horror, I was pleasantly surprised over and over in the ways obvious thought went into the cinematographic choices for this film as well as the simplicity with which it avoided the biggest problem with the micro-genre:  why the hell is everyone still filming? In this case, they're still filming because their entire mission is to record what they find out in space. Every time the camera shows something, it's because almost four billion dollars was spent putting the camera where it was. Of course they're going to want plenty of footage back at Mission Control, even of the boring stuff.

I really lucked out with this film. One of the nicer things about HubrisWeen is that you wind up having to pick some movies just based on where they fall in the alphabet. Thank goodness for the relative scarcity of October-appropriate movies that start with E, my desire this year to watch as many recently made movies as I could fit into the schedule, and of course to Doug Hudson for tipping me off to this one.

Thanks, man.

This review is part of the HubrisWeen roundtable for 2015. Please click on the green and black banner to go to the main depository of reviews and select something from the other four(!) participants for this year now that you're done with this one.


  1. Indeed, ER was a pleasant surprise for me too.

    Idle thought (and possible minor SPOILERs): Gravity and Mission to Mars also contain drifting-away-can't-reach-'em astronaut death scenes. I wonder how many others are out there.

  2. Several science-fiction movies that are concerned with the mechanics of slower-than-light travel have a "marooned in space" death. SPOILERS, of course: DARK STAR has two; MAROONED has one (and I think Tim Robbins' posture when he checks out in MISSION TO MARS is supposed to mimic the space death from that movie. DESTINATION MOON would have had one if the scientists hadn't been so quick-thinking. I'm sure I'm forgetting two or three of them that'll come to mind as soon as I post this. And THE CORE was about travel in the Earth's mantle but did have someone get separated from the group and killed.

  3. A glaringly obvious one from back in the day: 2001: A Space Odyssey. Considerably less obvious, and even older: The Phantom Planet.

  4. Oh, yes. And the not-particularly-good-at-all DEEP IMPACT has Jon Favreau get blown off the comet and sent into space in a sequence that was filmed and edited so oddly that I remember not knowing which astronaut got flung off into space for the requisite horrible death.