Life is directed by Daniel Espinosa and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds.
The premise is simple: a six-man crew aboard the International Space Station recover a space probe returning from Mars and find undeniable proof of extraterrestrial life. As the exoscientist of the crew, Hugh played by Ariyon Bakare, can’t wait to grow and test the limits of this new form of life but is surprised at just how fast it grows and what it’s capable of. The crew quickly finds out that its capable of a lot more than they bargained for.
All of the same elements are here as the 1979 Ridely Scott horror classic, Alien, but they are not used to anywhere near the same effect. The “trapped-in-space” genre was pretty much defined by Alien and it is the bar which any contenders must rise to if they expect to have any serious cred. Unfortunately, Life brings nothing new to the equation except some very good actors who are stuck with a very bad script which seems to force round pegs into square holes in order to hit all the standard plot elements it has to for these characters to be killed off horribly one-by-one by this alien creature. None of this should be a spoiler for anyone if you’ve seen even one commercial or trailer for the film. This is a suspense film that is not suspenseful, a horror film that is not horrifying and overall, just not a good movie. So that all being said, let me elaborate.
As I’ve mentioned with some other reviews I’ve done, what is most disappointing about this is the incredibly lost opportunities. Similar to Gravity, this is a movie that pretends to conform with science and reality, but from literally the very first scene that’s just not the case. They could have really gone above and beyond Alien with this by injecting some reality and humanity into the story and characters since they made this movie happen almost in present time in orbit around Earth. That changes things up quite a bit from Alien, which you may recall happened far far away from any planet after they picked up their extraterrestrial guest. It would have been nice to see the writers invest some smarts into how this scenario is very different and how they could have really thrown in some unpredictable plot curves using these differences.
Instead, it was pretty clear that it was just an afterthought to the writers that they were putting these characters in space at all. The fact that they were orbiting Earth was used to some small effect but mostly was wasted. When I see actors playing astronauts, the acting and writing should reflect that every one of them had to spend years earning the right to get to where they are at on the International Space Station while their character’s intelligence, stamina and team work should reflect that dedication and committment. These are people who are absolutely going to be operating on the same page, are going to know what is going on around them and are going to understand the parameters of the mission they are on. Instead, we are treated to people who are basically the equivalent of mid-level office workers with a similar sort of mentality except they’re all in space. We get Ryan Reynolds as the jokester, Jake Gyllenhaal as the guy who’s been up there the longest and doesn’t really want to go back to Earth because he doesn’t really like people so much, Ariyon Bakare as the biologist who is way in over his head and somehow is not communicating or collaborating with anyone back on Earth about how they are raising this alien in a petrie dish. Meanwhile, Rebecca Ferguson is the do-nothing commander who sort of just watches everything go to hell in a handbasket and the other two crew members are really just alien fodder. The film gave me no reason to care about any of them and to think, if that’s our best and brightest, it’s no wonder the alien makes such short work of them.
The special effects are off and on. There’s some nice CGI but the zero-G does not look like zero-G, some of the mechanics and use of the space suits is simply ridiculous and the ignorance of the crew members about their own habitat was appalling, all obviously servicing a script which has to have certain marks be hit in order for the inevitable dramatic ending which was supposed to be surprising but was no surprise at all. I honestly don’t think the director or writers did any real research of what space travel is actually like or how they could have used it to boost a mediocre and predictable story which ends up going nowhere pretty fast. Therefore, I’m giving this film a rating of Pretty Bad. I highly recommend you just stay away. Life is just lifeless and not worth your time or money.
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