DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa
A team of scientists aboard a space station orbiting Earth end up collecting a sample from Mars and bring it aboard. They hope that the life form will prove once and for all that extraterrestrial life exists on the Red Planet. It's when they start studying the life form which has been given the name of Calvin. They soon discover that the alien is a lot more hostile as it begins to kill the scientists one by one. The more this consumes, the larger it gets. They will have to try and contain the threat before it's too late.
I remember when I first saw the marketing campaign for Life, I was left somewhat disappointed by it. The first piece of poster art was just the three main actors heads on a blue background. It was a very cheap looking poster but didn't give much away. I assumed as an audience we were getting a Gravity like sort of science-fiction space adventure. It wasn't until watching the trailers where my anticipation started to spike for this movie. The trailers pointed out that this wasn't Gravity but more in line with Alien. This looked pretty intense. I was suddenly excited to see it.
Being someone that has created a blog and social media account that is dedicated to horror. I try and not get discouraged or overly hyped for movies because I spend a lot of my days reading a lot of opinions from fellow horror fanatics. Sometimes, I cannot help but get swept up in the all of that hype or even the negativity. I will still try and go into any movie with an open mind, though. Reviews, opinions and marketing can always seem to play a part in how I anticipate it and in Life's case, I can't deny once the reviews started coming in, I was left on the fence.
When I decided to finally sit down and watch Life, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the finished film. While Life does have several problems, it's still a highly entertaining science fiction horror film. The movie isn't all that original and I can see why people have compared elements of this movie to that of the classic Ridley Scott film Alien. This feels very inspired at times by that film, and while it may never reach the heights of the original two Alien movies for me, it is still a wildly entertaining alien pursuing humans while trapped in space horror film.
What the story gets right for me is that this is intense from about the twenty-minute mark. The movie doesn't take all that long in delivering the shocks and surprises, and there are a few nasty ones in store for the audience. Once Life gets off of the ground and starts running, it never stops. The movie delivers on what it promises, and that's an extraordinarily suspenseful and tension-filled little space horror flick. What I think sets it apart from a lot of other movies in this sub-genre is that this one has a lot of bite. This takes it to some grisly places.
Life is solid on the violence and bloodshed side of things. While nowhere near on the same level as say, Alien: Resurrection or Event Horizon when it comes to gore. I was not expecting this rather large-scale space movie to have the balls to do a few of the things that it did in this film. The first kill scene is the highlight of this movie for me. It's brutal, it's unsuspected, and when it happens, it will likely knock the audience for a six. It's a very mean-spirited scene and sets the tone for the rest of the film. I think this will subvert a lot of people's expectations.
Before witnessing Life, I remember reading a lot of negative feedback on the alien life form or creature design. I didn't know what to expect at all. After seeing the movie. I was completely onboard with it. What starts off as microscopic turns into this hulking mass of tentacles that moves extremely quick and can crush a human. I thought the creature design was great and found it incredibly menacing. Not once did I ever feel at ease once Calvin escapes in one of the coolest uses of a life form suddenly growing intelligence and using it as a way of escape, I think it's one of the best that I've ever seen put on screen.
Another element that I really enjoyed were the visual effects. The movie is gorgeous to watch. All the scenes in zero gravity or the characters floating around the ship all looked great. While this doesn't have the same sound design or visual heavy scenes of Gravity, I still felt the film looked fantastic for a movie that is said to have a slightly smaller budget compared to a lot of these other space-set films. Coming back to the creature design, the visuals of that also looked really solid. It looked fantastic among all the actors.
The issues that I have with Life are some of the character decisions and a predictable ending. We have continuous moments where our scientists try to set traps for Calvin which keeps growing in intelligence and no matter the number of times they try, they still end up repeating their mistakes. This I felt had become very tiring and annoying. I found that I had guessed the ending as the plans started being set in motion. What I like about the end of the movie, though is that it's a dark one. I give the filmmaker and writers credit for ending the movie on an ominous note and not trying to deliver a happy ending in a big Hollywood produced film.
Lastly, the acting is solid for the most part. Jake Gyllenhaal is a great actor. I need to say the same about Ryan Reynolds. Both actors are great in their respective roles. I think the one performance that I didn't like in the film is Rebecca Fergurson. I can't seem to grow on her as an actress. I find her incredibly cold, bland, and emotionless. It's the same thought I had while I watched her in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. She didn't give much in the way of a performance in Life. I think this is entirely Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds movie.
DEATH TOLL: 4
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A man's fingers are completely crushed and broken.
- A man is sucked out of an airlock.
- An alien life form takes over a rat and consumes it.
- Blood pours out of a man's mouth.
- A woman drowns as her space suit feels with coolant.
- An alien life form enters a man's throat and chokes him to death.
- An alien tentacle is shoved down a man's throat.
- The alien life form tears off a man's leg, and blood pours out.
- A man is shown being consumed by a large alien life form.
Going into Life, it was hard not to have reservations. I went in after missing it at the cinemas, so I had seen the months of talk about the film online. Nothing was ruined for me, but I think what I witnessed online about the movie was more negative than positive. For me, Life is a hell of a lot of fun. It's fast-paced, the creature design is of top-notch quality, the visual effects are standout, the acting is excellent, and when it needs to get nasty and grisly, it does. Minus a few terrible character decisions and an ending I saw coming, I have to hand it to the filmmaker and writers for going out and ending this film the way they did. Life is definitely exploring.