Life (2017, Daniel Espinosa) Movie Review
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds
Life takes place on an International Space Program, where a crew of six members manages to recover a probe containing soil samples from Mars. From these samples, they discover a single celled organism unlike any other found on Earth. Naming it as “Calvin”, the crew finds out that the organism is more dangerous than they have ever anticipated.
Knowing that this movie is a cross blend between science fiction and horror, one would expect numerous scenes of grisly alien action, and that’s what the audience got. The first thirty minutes of the movie felt fairly mechanical with space jargon, but once it got going, it got going, well. The movie crosses a line between the two genres to the point where a hardcore science fiction fan may enjoy this film as well as a horror fan. Life presents the best of both worlds, dedicating numerous scenes for both genres, respectively.
The visuals are stunning as well. The opening scene in particular where it gives a wide pan of the spaceship and the planet looked spectacular, reminding me a bit of Cuaron’s Gravity. The design of Calvin could have been improved, but it’s presence throughout the entire film hits a visceral feeling of suspense. Calvin may not be as frightening as Xenomorph from Alien objectively, but it will do for a good horror movie fix.
Having that said, where the film falters is with the characters. I did find the acting to be good (especially Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson), but I felt that the characters were more like bodies waiting to be killed than actual people. This falls into a certain horror trope of elimination, where a group of people are getting killed one by one by a certain entity. This may not necessarily be bad, but it gives the audience less to root for, less to care. Luckily, the bland characters were salvaged by the acting. All of the actors managed to do their best with the limited characterization given to them.
The characters may feel pretty thin, but Life is still effective both as a horror and a sci-fi film, mixing elements of the two genres to create a quick thrill for the audience. It’s not as smart and ambitious as it ought to be, but it’s still a fun ride, having fast paced action sequences and impressive visual scenes. One may be jarred down by the mechanical dialogue during the first half, but strong acting and production for the rest of the film makes the entire thing worthwhile to watch.
Watched March 2017