Scene 40: As Katya takes a moment to orient herself, we hear the soft tics from her geiger counter.
She sets to work in the target zone, collecting samples for remote analysis onboard the lander. Her radiation levels are fluctuating, but remain in acceptable limits.
Commentary: I'm not crazy about this part, but it's minor: I don't like having Katya putting samples into a scanner here and then having Dan running an analysis in real-time while she's continuing to risk a spike in her radiation bath. She's a little too obviously being set up to choose to receive a fatal dose of radiation for The Mission.
But, she has sample containers: I don't see a reason why she couldn't grab multiple samples in her case and return to the landing craft for the science. It's possible that they couldn't actually unload the samples in the ship for reasons, but she would still be able to be located at the side of the ship to put the samples into her transmitting scanner, and that way when the radiation inevitably spikes, they could get her inside until it passes.
This feels like one of those dramatic risks, that is actually unnecessary, so her clear-end is kinda empty and dumb.
Scene 41: Xu tells Katya to come back in, but she wants one sample from below the radiation blasted surface. She pulls her sample, and confirms that Europa has life! Her sample contains a monocellular lifeform comparable to an algae.
As Katya is packing up, she sees flashes of light -- the same light as Andrei reported earlier but couldn't confirm.
Katya reports a chemical iridescense, and chooses to go further out to investigate, which puts her out of the eyeline of Rosa.
Scene 42: On the lander, Dan reports that they're receiving severe electromagnetic interference. He tells Wu that she needs to start back.
Out on the surface, Katya reports that the lights are coming from below the ice and may be bioluminescense. Dan tells her that they're reading heat movement beneath the ice.
Katya reports that she believes the ice is stable, but moments later, she finds the icy surface is breaking up around her.
Camera feed is chaotic, so we don't see what exactly is happening to her. But in the capsule, Dan reports that her signal is now coming from underneath the ice... she's fallen through into the Europan Sea.
From Katya's internal helmet cam, we see lights playing across her face. The crew doesn't get anymore as her camera feeds go out.
Commentary: Okay - so, I'm pleased that this DIDN'T do what I expected. Good show, script, on having the surface radiation concerns end up a red herring.
Scene 43: Everybody is deeply affected by Katya's loss. For whatever has actually happened, there isn't any way she'd be able to return to the surface in her heavy space suit and climb out off the water. She's doomed to sink through the waters until she runs out of air, or is crushed by the pressures, assuming that Europa's seas aren't salty enough to give her bouyancy first. Either way, their second crewman is lost.
Scene 44: Later, Dan tells the others that whatever Katya saw, it was reacting to the lights from her helmet. He suggests that behavior shows complex life. Rosa points out that they don't have enough data from her egress to confirm Dan's hypothesis, and they need to stay longer to show they have found such life on the moon.
Andrei worries over the stability of the ice underneath them. He points out that if they never leave, Earth will never get their results.
This sways Dan that they need to go, and Xu looks to Rosa. She agrees that at the next launch window, they should return to the orbiter.
Scene 45: We skip forward to the launch window and the jets of the lander activate for the return to space.
As the ship lifts off, multiple issues suddenly pile up: They're off trajectory due to engine malfunction, the temperatures of the injectors are too high, the fuel ratio mix is off-spec and they have circuits blowing out.
Xu orders Rosa to set them down again so they can perform a second burn after they find out where the error started.
Cameras aboard cut out and back in during the turbulent crash landing.
Xu unstraps in order to blow the water in the shielding system to lighten the craft & stablize the freefall the capsule is now in, since Rosa and the computer can't compensate for the malfunctions, bringing them dangerously close to an uncontrolled fall onto the surface.
As they hit the surface, Xu is thrown down the aisle from command to habitat levels, smashing his head against the steel flooring. The mission Captain is lost. The lander goes dark.
Scene 46: Sometime later, Rosa comes to still in the pilot's seat, as some power is returning to some of the panels, but there are also a lot of short circuiting happening across her control boards.
She's able to restore partial power and goes into the lower level where Andrei is having trouble reviving, while Dan is looking over panels to get an idea of how badly they're hurt.
They check on William, but confirm that Captain Xu did not survive.
Scene 47: Rosa is again filming her narration, where she informs the camera that they crash landed back in their original landing zone -- the landing zone where the ice has proven itself to be less solid.
Scene 48: At Earth, Dr. Sokolov tells the documentary crew that the crash site turned out to be much warmer that they had previously hypothesized, probably due to a sea vent underneath. The ice was brittle and unstable, putting the craft into immediate danger of falling through to its doom.
He goes on to explain that while blowing the water shielding saved the craft, the crew now faced the dangers of being exposed to high radiation spikes inside the ship.
Scene 49: Aboard the ship, Andrei tells the others that they've got an oxygen leak and have lost temperature control. Andrei reports that external lighting is working, and Dan sets to checking out their status: It isn't good news as the ice is showing clear signs of cracking underneath the lander.
He can see slushy water and guesses that the lander will be under the water in a matter of hours.
Rosa says that their docking window is open, if they can get to orbit. She tells the others that she's going to take the backup life support systems energy and use it to engage the launch thrusters. Andrei tells her that if she can get them launching, he believes he can get them to orbit. They set to work on the last ditch plan to get them back to the orbiter.
When the other two have climbed back to the command module, Dan whispers that it's pointless as he analyzes the ship's position on the weakened ice.
Scene 50: Later, Dan helps Rosa in spite of his growing pessimism. As they work frantically to get themselves launch capable, the craft suddenly rumbles and lurches. Danny Downer tells them that they've run out of time.
They regroup and Andrei reports a partial fuel line freeze, while the lander is obviously tilted at an angle. Dan asks Rosa if a launch is even realistic given their lodged in the ice, but she remains optimistic about an attempt being possible at least.
Andrei tells them that Rosa will need to stay in the ship to prep the engines, but he needs Daniel to egress with him in order to clear the fuel line and make repairs. He estimates they'll take two hours, so they need to get started immediately and hope for the best.
After the two crewmates leave, Rosa catches up with "now" on the recording of her thoughts and narrations.
Scene 51: Rosa hooks up the portable camera to send the data skyward to the orbiter on the offchance that a) they don't make it off the surface, and b) that mission control finds a way to restore connectivity or c) that a future mission intercepts the orbiter and downloads the data.
Inside, the lander continues to quake as the ice beneath it shifts.
Dan goes first, to test the ice, as Andrei is more important as engineer. Inside the air lock, radiation spikes are again playing havok with the cameras. Rosa tells them that she's picking up the same radiation signature that Katya recorded.
Dan stands on the ice, he reports that he can see...
His camera goes out and from the air lock, Andrei can no longer see him outside. He tells Rosa to turn off the external lights, but she's trying to frantically restore contact with Dan.
Andrei reports to Rosa that Daniel fell through the ice, was surrounded by light, and then was gone. Rosa asks about still being able to patch the fuel line, but Andrei has clearly accepted that they're not going to escape.
He suggests that he focus on restoring the damaged communications' linkage that he and James hadn't been able to complete. He'll need to take parts from the vessel's life support. It takes her a few moments to wrestle with giving up hope that she can live through this, but agrees with Andrei's suggestion to dump the data through the communications array.
Scene 52: Andrei goes out onto the ice and carefully makes his way around the breaks to the comm panel.
As Andrei works, the glow below the ice returns around the craft. The electromagnetic interference also returns with the light pulse.
Outer cameras are brought down.
Scene 53: Inside, Rosa prepares her end of the procedure, while also trying to re-establish comm with Andrei.
Andrei reports success, just as the light moves under him. Andrei reports over voice comms that the ice is breaking underneath the capsule. He reports the light is surrounding them. He yells....
Scene 54: In the command module, Rosa calls for him. The upload link reports successful transmission to the orbiter. From Andrei, there is only silence. Aboard the lander, Rosa is beginning to be unpleasantly cold as the temperature is dropping even more quickly due to the disabled life support system.
She straps herself into the pilot seat, and opens the floor to the habitat level below. Around her the light grows more intense, along with the electromagnetic interference.
As the outer door reveals that the bottom of the capsule has sunk below liquid water, Rosa watches as the ice water flows into the craft, filling it up toward herself.
She sees the lifeform in the water, a tentacle looking appendage with a bioluminescence - similar in use to an Anglerfish.
The water catches up with the command module, and the onboard camera finally gets a look at what has been stalking under the surface of Europa - a complex lifeform just as Dan and Katya had theorized:
Scene 55: We return to Dr. Unger, relating that in the final moments, Rosa had chosen to open the air lock in order to try to get an glimpse of the life on Europa to send back to the orbiter.
She reports that she got the call that they had re-established the download link at mission control and were receiving images from the onboard systems.
We see a sped up, skipping version of the crew's travels. She goes on (and on) about the profound discovery by the Europa One crew, who kept their mission first, despite their losses, until the end.
Commentary: And presumably, they now have a bunch of schools and science labs named after them.
The Good: Let's start with the basics: The set design and the musical cues, including the theme are terrific. They also did a superb job of making the space exploration entrenched in real space travel and physics. All of it was authentic feeling.
They did a terrific job, both scripting and acting, in making the astronauts people instead of stock cliches. None of the crew spend their time being bitchy, or arrogantly douchey, or making you wonder how they could've possible passed their psych evals to be onboard such an incredible mission. It was a nice surprise (sadly) when the company CEO wasn't presented as a cold, heartless bitch.
I really enjoyed Katya's sequence on the surface of Europa, and her quiet, accepting wonder even as she approached her death. I also loved everything after the aborted attempt at take off (with one tiny caveat). I liked the mystery, I liked how James was lost that we finally get an explanation for [my minor complaint remains about how the 'documentary crew' danced around this and milked the tension though], the way that the crew went about continuing with mission objectives, the last actions of Dan, Andrei and Rosa... the tail end, when everything that could go wrong does go wrong was very engaging, and the actors did a great job with their emotionally vulnerable characters.
The Bad: At first, I was afraid of pacing ending up here, but when all is said and done - nothing ends up in The Bad.
Other Thoughts: I don't really like the "documentary after the fact" way the script is presented. It doesn't feel like it was necessary to make this a found footage type film, rather than a straight narrative. It's not done badly, so isn't horrible for a change, though. Toward the middle section and beyond, some of the time skipping backward and forward felt really labored - especially in handling the loss of James.
I also felt like some of Rosa's mission diary entries felt off in the way they were filmed, or where exactly she was onboard that small lander in order to wax on philosophically about their mission. This is especially problematic after Dan and Andrei are planning to fix the engines to get them out of there. Despite having to prep the boosters for their last chance to escape, Rosa finds time to diary for everybody back home. That felt clumsy and not realistic.
The pacing is an issue also between say - 40 minutes in, and when they actually reach Europa. This is mostly due to stretching out finally relating what exactly happened to cause James to vanish from the onboard footage. In-universe, it's tacky of the documentary crew. Out-universe, it's annoying and distracting for the viewer. There are also too many inserted shots of the outer cameras from the rocket journeying through space, breaking up the narrative flow. I stress to add that none of this was to the point of being in The Bad, but it created a slog through the first more-than-half of the film.
That small caveat at the ending of the film: I'm not sure I buy the squid-like lifeform's behavior that leads to the loss of our crew. It feels a little bit too much for a squid-type animal to be able to scan above the ice field and then actively break through the ice in search of prey. Why would it evolve to do this? There isn't ANYTHING on the surface for sealife to evolve to hunt. Maybe its electromagnetic pulses are acting as a sort of radar and curiousity caused it to come to the surface -- that is easy to buy. But actively expending energy with all of its light show, and trying to break through feet of hard ice just feels like it would be an anti-survival move that would go against its instinct to not expend valuable energy. I'm also not wild about the final image, which makes the bioluminescent squid look almost inorganic. But as pointed out, this caveat is small.
The Score: There are some minor pacing issues, some annoyance with the flashforward/flashbacking and the endless camera footage insertions/glitches, but overall, strong acting and a compelling mystery on Europa carries the film through. It also helps that the script didn't include a designated 'villain' character to clog up the narrative with false conflict.
3.50 out of 5 stars