I'm dead set on living
Life is directed by Daniel Esponesa and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds.
The easiest thing for someone to do while watching Life is to stand up out of their seat and shout at the screen, "Alien ripoff!" as it is indeed yet another movie involving people in space being hunted down one by one by some extra-terrestrial creature that cannot be communicated with. But what Life has going for it that those B-movie Alien ripoffs don't is that it's much sleeker and more professionally crafted. It's got recognizable people like Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson in it, so that would have to mean that the movie isn't totally devoid of substance if it could get the likes of them on board.
The plot: The Pilgrim 7 space probe is returning from Mars to the International Space Station, containing a soil sample that might have evidence of alien life. The probe enters an asteroid field and is damaged on the way back. The six member crew of the ISS manage to retrieve the probe and discover a cell in the sample. Exobiologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) is able to revive the dormant cell, confirming the existence of life beyond Earth. The cell's discovery is broadcasted around Earth, where a group of schoolchildren asking questions to the ISS crew decide to give the cell the name Calvin. Hugh continues to inspect Calvin, but Calvin eventually becomes hostile, crushing Hugh's right hand into a mangled mess of bone and tissue. Calvin escapes into the space station shortly afterwards, and the rest of the crew must work together to find Calvin and kill him.
Instead of some chomping lizard-like creature, the alien in Life is some sort of amoebic, squid-octopus hybrid that kills by literally sucking the life out of its victims. Calvin grows in size as the film progresses, the first bit of Alien theft. What is frustrating is how the crew makes rather idiotic decisions in their efforts in killing Calvin, bringing into question what kind of emergency training these people had before embarking into the deep reaches of space. Calvin continually outwits the six member crew, with Rebecca Ferguson's character acknowledging that the creature is incredibly smart. But instead of thinking to themselves, "we gotta find a clever way to outsmart it", the crew proceeds with the most trivial and straightforward ways that one stuck on a space station would go about dealing with an alien threat. There's no creative spark of any kind, and the movie puts the action on pause several times for scenes in which the characters simply discuss what they miss on Earth and what their lives were like before they came into space, all of which is just lazy character development.
- Oh do I hate it when I fail to find anything to discuss as a high point. While the acting and effects are satisfactory, no one is going to even come close to wowing the most hardcore acting and special effects judges of the world. Gyllenhaal is just going through the motions as Dr. David Jordan, and he barely does anything to give you the sense that he is the main character. Rebecca Ferguson is okay, and Ryan Reynolds brings a little bit of his quirky charm to his role. Really though, that's about all I can say, and there's nothing noteworthy about the effects.
- The ending of the film is bound to polarize people, and I will go so far as to say the ending is a cop out. Life only skims the surface on its relevant themes and ideas, and for the sake of some cheap shock value, the film ends in a way that only makes its approach all the more confusing and all the more cynical.
And I know I'm making it sound like Life is a pile of sci-fi trash, but it looks nice enough and it has enough sci-fi pulp so as to not be rotting garbage. There's just too much that happens to easily bring Alien to mind, and the movie as a whole just sort of functions. It just...operates, like a machine whose inner mechanisms aren't very interesting or inventive. Life was clearly designed by competent people, but it offers basically nothing that you can't find in other, better sci-fi horror works. Think of it as if someone was trying to offer you a juicy steak that's been sitting in the fridge for a couple days, as opposed to getting that same juicy steak fresh off the grill. And what would the juicy steak fresh off the grill be? Why, watching Alien, of course!
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: