OldKingClancy posted a MOVIE REVIEW item: 4 months ago



Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Written by: Paul Wernick
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada
Genre: Horror, Science-Fiction
Official Site:
Plot: Crew Expendable


People say there’s no originality left in Hollywood, how true this may be is an argument I’m not getting into but it should be noted that a lot of films follow very similar paths to what inspired them. Case in point, Life is essentially just a lesser version of Alien, but that doesn’t stop it from being a decent film and an enjoyable watch in its own right. Sometimes a good execution is all that’s needed.

Set aboard the ISS, a six-member crew receive an unmanned probe from Mars that may contain evidence of organic life not from Earth. Biologist Hugh Derry finds a single-celled organism in the sample that is named ‘Calvin’ by an American school however ‘Calvin’ starts to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. After a violent outburst during a series of tests, ‘Calvin’ escape its confinement and hides on the ship, with no knowledge of how durable or dangerous it is, the rest of the crew – Captain Ekaterina Golovkina, engineers Rory Adams and Sho Murakami, quarantine officer Miranda North and Medical officer David Jordan- agree to kill ‘Calvin’ before it kills them, or worse; makes it to Earth.

Unknown life-form on board space station with a small crew getting picked off one by one, yeah it’s pretty much Alien, with a little bit of The Thing thrown in with ‘Calvin’ mostly acting defensive rather than attacking. Even still there’s very little you can do as a sci-fi monster horror and NOT be reminiscent of Alien but the story’s decent enough to carry the film even with its familiarities and still has enough in it to keep you surprised. It won’t win any awards but it’s enough for the film.

Characters were mostly the same, nothing special but serviceable for what was needed in the film, Captain Golovkina was very by-the-book when it came to protocol but had no issues with relaxing with her crew. Hugh was fascinated by ‘Calvin’ as an organism but completely out of his depth once it became violent. Sho... actually Sho got the short end of the stick, there wasn’t really anything to him passed being a new father which was essentially a walking death sentence. Ryan Reynolds was playing Ryan Reynolds but that’s not always a bad thing and his own personal face-off with ‘Calvin’ showed some proper fear and anger with the end being one of the film’s strongest scenes.

Rebecca Ferguson, while sadly not living up to her Mission Impossible potential, is good as Miranda, she’s easily the most serious of the team, at times coming off as cold but given the importance of her own personal mission that’s understandable and her slow emotional cracking is a subtle arc that the film uses to great effect during her final scene in the film where she lets loose in quite a horrifying fashion.

Rounding out the cast was Gyllenhaal as David, considering the career overhaul Gyllenhaal has had in the past 5, 6 years this does feel a little like a step backwards but on the other hands it’s a sci-fi horror, maybe he just wanted a bit of fun. They set up David early when it’s explained that he’s been in space for over 400 days, close to beating the overall record, as a result he’s become quite close to the crew and obviously values their friendship so when they start dying he takes it hard which encourages him to fight back harder. Gyllenhaal definitely elevates the character through his own charisma but you can see the outline of the central hero he becomes.

In truth the characters are easily the weakest part of the film, they go a good enough job to get us to like them and root for them but there’s not enough on them to make them memorable. There’s also the issue of more than a few questionable decisions made by supposed rocket scientists, mostly revolving around the convoluted ways they use to try and kill ‘Calvin’ rather than just opening the airlock and blasting it into space due to the crew not wanting to risk anyone’s lives but I’m willing to overlook most of these since it allows the film to actually exist, plus I read up on a theory that ‘Calvin’ was using these emotionally driven moments to learn that humans abandon protocol when lives are at stake which ties into the ending quite nicely.

What makes the film is Daniel Espinosa’s direction, I was honestly surprised at just how genuinely intense this film got, once ‘Calvin’ got loose things kicked off immediately with quite a violent death and just grew from there. You do get your typical space scenes like someone getting sucked into the vacuum but they did throw in a few quite original moments, seeing someone drown in a space-suit was nothing something I thought I would ever see but it happened and it was rough viewing. I’m not gonna sit here and say that this had me on the edge of my seat but I found it quite easy to get wrapped up in the tension and feel what the film wanted me to feel.

On a technical side the CGI got a little iffy at spots on more focussed elements – liquids and fire in particular looked a little off – but for set-pieces and even ‘Calvin’ itself it looked good, ‘Calvin’ has a solid, almost ethereal design with these wispy limbs that glided it like leafs, very other-worldly that got more and more sinister as it evolved though I’m not too keen on it having a face. I will give the film a lot of credit for having a large portion – actually maybe even the majority if I’m remembering it right - in Zero G gravity. It would’ve been a whole lot easier to keep everyone on the ground but in order to keep the ‘Calvin’ afloat and dangerous they kept the gravity low, the effect is slight but does help showcase this is a space movie and the extra work behind it should be recognised.

Life is exactly what you expect it to be but that doesn’t make it bad, calling it another Alien movie is a disservice partly because Alien is a great movie and there’s nothing wrong with films borrowing from it but mostly because Life stands on its own as an enjoyable sci-fi horror that’s executed better than anticipated, what it lacks in originality it makes up for in being a well-made entry into the genre.



Other reviews of this film: LelekPL (8/10) , Boogie Buddha (9/10) > Display all

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