By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Life is a well crafted thriller / action movie, but lacks when it comes to the horror and suspense that it was obviously trying to achieve. Nevertheless, some beautiful concept design and interesting characters.
A crew of astronauts on the ISS intercept a capsule on it’s way back from Mars and make contact with a new microscopic life form that’s been laying dormant on the red planet. Astronauts include Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada), Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) and Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare).
This film boasts an impressive international cast of decent actors that are capable of pulling off a more than decent performance, and they do here as well, but there was just something missing from Life.
From the get-go there’s a sense of dread as to what kind of parasitic life form this thing is going to be and what methods of savage body torture it’s going to inflict upon the unsuspecting crew, but director Daniel Espinosa doesn’t manage to sustain that dread for the remainder of the film. Like his previous film Child 44, this has all the ingredients to be something fun and scary, but misses the mark from a lack of tension.
Probably because, unlike Alien and similar sci-fi horrors, we always know where this thing is. They track it throughout the film and despite being in the claustrophobic maze of the ISS, we never get the feeling that they’re really boxed in.
Points must be rewarded for the concept design though. The creature, later dubbed ‘Calvin’ is an interesting specimen and develops nicely over the course of the film. It has a certain grace and fluidity to its movements, and CDC officer North (Ferguson) expresses her admiration of the beast and that it’s ‘only trying to survive’, much like the crew. Similar to Ash in Alien, but a more human approach.
I just wish they’d explored the beauty and complexity of Calvin’s motivations a bit more, that would have made things really interesting, and it would’ve been a great contrast to the body horror that the crew is put through.
The deaths are a plenty, but sometimes catch you off guard. It’s never too predictable, and you do feel for some of the crew members as they’re genuinely trying to protect themselves, and protect Earth. There were almost no moments when you think ‘ok, that was a really dumb move’. There’s a real sense of urgency and realism to the narrative as it appears to be set in modern day or the not too distant future.
It’s clear that Gravity had an influence on Espinosa as he occasionally attempts to do the space ballet thing here, but it’s just not as effective. There’s also a bit of Event Horizon in there as well, minus the suspense and mystery.
It’s still an enjoyable watch though, and I feel like there might be some extra footage out there that might give Life the extra kick of life (haha) that it needs to really get you involved. Hopefully we’ll see a Director’s Cut in the near future.