Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Featuring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds
Dominique: “Are you bringing the alien back to earth?”
Roy Adams: “No, we’re going to keep it up here where it’s safe.”
I don’t normally like reading or hearing other peoples reviews but somehow going into “Life” (2017) I had heard a few and was pretty discouraged by them, the theme that came through was that this was a cross between “Alien” (1979) and “Gravity (2013), but inferior to both – which is not only not true but fairly insulting for all three films to be reduced to a type but also insulting to the film-makers themselves. Its no surprise then that this isn’t the greatest film ever made, but as far as genre films go it is exceptionally watchable with some very original content – you just have to suspend your disbelief and it will all be ok.
“Life”, is set on as well as revolving around a crew aboard the International Space Station performs a successful capture of a space probe returning from Mars with a sample inside. The crew is tasked with studying the sample, which may be the first proof of extraterrestrial life. However, the study eventually backfires as the organism displays incredible strength and gains intelligence, becoming extremely hostile and killing them all one by one. Trapped aboard the ISS with the rapidly growing organism, the crew must find out how to kill it before it manages to escape and destroy Earth.
If you have seen any marketing for this film you will probably know it is about an aggressive alien that is hunting its prey on a space station, and yes on the surface this is similar to “Alien”, but the type of alien as well as the crew and the motivations for the crew are pretty different to the film “Alien” in almost every way. The similarities to “Gravity” are that it is set in space, on a space station orbiting the earth – a fairly pointless and obvious statement.
Daniel Espinosa, the director of “Life”, whose previous film, the extremely poorly received historic Russian serial killer film, “Child 44” (2015) was a bit of a bloated mess is clearly in his rear mirror as this film is a fast paced thriller, with time given over to most of the characters for moments that make you feel for them when they all face their respective fates. The director make effective use of the two shot to maximize the claustrophobic feeling within the space station as well as point of view shots as well, particularly through a tense and gruesome space walk scene. The exterior wide shots look amazing considering this is a low budgeted sci-fi film and has a lot to accomplish with its special effects.
The spcial effects are acceptable at this films budget, however there are some shaky scenes towards the end as well as some of the moving exterior shots. The alien, “Calvin”, in my opinion is very well designed, I am pretty sure it is original, as well as terrifying in most scenes “he” appears, although by the end of the film I was feeling sorry for it and was wondering why we all just couldn’t get along.
The film is cast extremely well with the characters of Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) and David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) given the most to do, as well as having the most depth for them to play with. The cast is round out with Ryan Reynolds who doesn’t miss a beat with his personality and motor mouth – the one thing I did think was he was a bit of stunt casting to draw people into the cinema. I have to admit that I really enjoy seeing Reynolds given the chance just to do what he does best, look good and talk.
The best thing to do before going to this film is to avoid all spoilers, go in clean and be prepared to be shocked as well as seeing a lot of blood and horror. The alien looks excellent as well as gross – it is not a humanoid at all, this for me is a relief. I am pretty sick of creatures from another world taking humans over or assimilating them, I think this has been done to death and the very idea of a new creature being created is a great idea and one not done enough in cinema.
Now that this and “Alien: Covenant” (2017) have been released I have to say that I prefer this film, it is a little more original as well as having way less plot baggage than the later.
If you like a good Sci-Fi with scares, the idea of the world hanging in the balance and some good performances from some really great actors then this is the film for you. Just go in with no spoilers or expectations, and you will have a good time. This has a high level of re-watchability.
“Life” is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.