Life (2017)

1:15 PM

We Were Better Off Alone.
 Life is directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Child 44) and stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Prisoners), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, The Girl on the Train) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal). "A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth". Is Life simply Alien's long lost twin or is something surprisingly refreshing and new?



I didn't have high hopes for Life - I thought that the trailer made it seem like a throwaway film that may be worth a rental but nothing more. However, over the weekend I saw 3 films and Life was by far my favourite! Truly a pleasant surprise. This film hasn't done particularly well at the box office - I was accompanied by just two others when I went to see it. It's sad because it's actually a solid sci-fi flick that I think will please fans of the genre. However, is it perfect? no. Does it have an uncanny resemblance to Alien? yes. 

Life has an appealing cast - Jake Gyllenhaal always delivers, Ryan Reynolds is hot off of Deadpool and Rebecca Ferguson is a rising star that keeps rising. Even though all three don't do poor jobs, their performances were just fine. Surprisingly, Ryan Reynolds has a very small role which I was actually thankful for because he belonged in a different movie - he was extremely light-hearted and kept the film from feeling as serious. We all know that Jake Gyllenhaal is a very talented actor but I think he is given a pretty poor role - he literally has nothing to do. The same can be said for Rebecca Ferguson. I think the writing could have been a little stronger that could have asked more from the actors. There's no point in having these big names if the film doesn't know how to use them. Daniel Espinosa could also be to blame as the director - it kind of felt like he didn't feel comfortable directing such talented actors (asking more of them/knowing how to). The rest of the cast all do a nice job. The characters in general are thinly developed - all of them have a distinct feature that then later relates to the plot but that's about it. 

The alien, Calvin, was probably the best character. It was great to see the alien slowly develop and grow from just a piece of bacteria to a full-on terrifying monster. The only problem is that I felt like the world found out about Calvin being found way too early - if this was real, the government would try to keep it a secret! Even when Calvin was just a bubble, I felt pretty cautious. The visuals were strong and I think if Life had performed better at the box office, Calvin could have been the face of a new Alien-esque franchise. Calvin is very vicious - some of the scenes in this film are terribly gruesome. I was actually surprised by how graphic this film was, I didn't expect it to go as far as it did. The visual effects when it came to space were also very strong - they obviously weren't as fascinating as Gravity but they were still solid and believable. 

Like I briefly mentioned, Life is a lot scarier than I was expecting it to be - I was on the edge of my seat for most of the film. I've seen some call if dull and void of life but they must have been watching a different film! - Life is a full-on horror flick and it certainly delivers on the scares. There are jump scares, graphic images, horrific thoughts and a brilliant stinger of an ending. Life moves at a fast pace and even though the film doesn't have many twists and turns and is admittedly predictable, it's still entertaining watching everything happen. SPOILERS - There is a slight twist towards the end of the film which I thought was clever. We are told the plan for the final two survivors and find out one of them is happy to die in deep space accompanied by Calvin because they 'belong' there and the other is to go back to earth because they are new to the whole space thing and want to report about it. However, we then find out that the situations are reversed and Calvin ends up on Earth and not in deep space. Looking back, the twist is pretty predictable and I did guess it when we see a wide shot of the two capsules going their separate ways - I wanted it to happen and it did happen. This made the   final shot a real stinger. It was also pretty horrific when we see Ferguson screaming as she uncontrollably flies further and further in to deep space. Life is scary and thrilling. 

So Life is pretty good but the one thing that (possibly unfairly) holds it back from being great is that it suffers from B-movie syndrome. Life feels like a knock off of every existing sci-fi film out there - the upcoming Alien: Covenant resembles Life a lot and the Alien franchise has been around way longer. I had a friend who went to see the film and listed how it was similar to numerous different sci-fi films. I just wish it was a little more original because right now I don't really know how this is a 'new' idea or why this story, that we've already seen a 100 times, needed to be told again. Even actors that usually provide A-grade performances weren't able to lift it. Possibly a clear message or some social commentary - I understand it's hard to keep creating new stories about the same subject but that's what imagination and creativity is all about. 

Life is a solid and enjoyable sci-fi flick. It's certainly not going to be a classic that will be remembered in years to come but it's definitely entertaining. The visuals are strong - both for the look of space and the realisation of Calvin the alien. The performances are fine but these talented actors are not given enough to work with. The story is pretty predictable but moves at a nice pace and there is a satisfying twist towards the end. However, Life is simply a copy of most other sci-fi films out there and isn't anything unique or original. It goes without saying that Life is basically the support act for Alien: Covenant, the headliner which will be released this summer - it certainly got me excited and more hyped. 

68
/100

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