Life is a 2017 sci-fi space thriller directed by Daniel Espinosa, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sananda, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya and an alien that looks like a tentacled flower with a face of some sort. The film follows the crew of the ISS as they uncover the first evidence of life on Mars and all the problems that follow this discovery.
Life is a very frustrating movie. It is a film where, at crucial plot points, scientists forget to scientist. The film begins promisingly enough. It has all those sweeping shots of space and floating shots of astronauts. It lacks the smooth look of most space movies and that is for its benefit as the film stands apart. It has funny Ryan Reynolds being funny and there is no better Ryan Reynolds than funny Ryan Reynolds. We have our generic crew of genericness doing their generic things. Yeah, ticks all the boxes of a space adventure horror film. The astronauts get a single celled organism which hails from the red planet and we kick-start the plot.
The film had me intrigued for the better part of its first half. I had no idea what to expect as I had not even seen a trailer for the film. It had a few actors I liked and it was set in space, how bad could it be? It’s not Event Horizon bad but this movie could have been a lot better than it ended up being. The primary concept is awesome but the film squanders an interesting premise by quickly making sane characters stupid, to move the plot. Things astronauts/people of science would never do are done here and the contrivances are inexplicable. Once the plot changes from space adventure to space horror, the film trades its originality for cheap scares and some fun gore.
Even though the alien looks as scary as one of those giant venus flytraps from cartoons of yore, it is quite well defined in terms of rules. It is a character of its own and the writers did put a lot of thought into it. The alien (Calvin) in this film borrows a great chunk from The Thing (not the one from Fantastic Four) but still manages to be somewhat original. The characters, however, are not. The film has good actors at its disposal and underuses them criminally. There is a good gory suspense thriller here lost in the sea of overused plot points. It does feel like I’m bashing the film a bit too much but the film does have an unbearable been-there-done-that feel to it.
I was reminded of this film with Adrien Brody called Splice. A film where people of science make horrible mistakes which feel very uncharacteristic. This film treads some of those lines. I wanted to like it and be intrigued by it, but it gets quite formulaic once all the rules are established. One might feel like I’m repeating myself till I get to the end of this essay, and one would be right. But, I do this to be indicative of the plot. Similar scenes arranged together to make a full-length film. The movie did have some clever foreshadowing that I did not catch until it paid off and its little bouts of smarts like that which make this movie somewhat entertaining.
It’s a well shot and well edited 103 minutes which most filmgoers might forget within the next 103 seconds of them walking out of their cinema hall.
OVERALL SCORE –