REVIEW: Life (2017)

Theatrical Release Poster – Columbia Pictures

The following is a review of Life – Directed by Daniel Espinosa

Life, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the writers of Deadpool and Zombieland), is an intense science fiction thriller. The film follows the International Space Station’s crew, which captures a space probe that holds an organism that proofs the existence of extraterrestrial life. The organism is named ‘Calvin,’ after an elementary school named after Calvin Coolidge, but the astronauts soon discover that the organism isn’t as harmless and friendly as they expected.

Let’s just get this out of the way: Life is derivative. It’s unoriginal. It feels like a mixture of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and classic science fiction horror films – like John Carpenter’s The Thing and, especially, Ridley Scott’s Alien. I’m sure that, for some, it’s going to be a huge problem that Life isn’t groundbreaking or, really, original. But even the most derivative films can be entertaining and well-executed. Life is a great example of just that.

The opening of the film is really terrific. One of the opening scenes is designed to look like it was done all in one shot. We see, and are introduced to, all of the characters as they move around inside the International Space Station preparing to capture the aforementioned space probe. It’s a great way to start the film, and the next thirty minutes, or so, are terrific. Really, I think the first two-thirds of the film are excellent. I don’t think it sticks the landing completely, though, as the ending is slightly predictable and ineffective.

But Life is the kind of movie you want to see in a movie theater. There are some pretty intense scenes. In fact, the greatest scene – the most intense scene in the film – had me holding my breath and clenching my fists. Another shot, which, in fairness, was inspired heavily by the facehuggers from Alien, made me really uneasy. Life is really effective, at times. It’s also fairly well-paced and has an appropriate running time (just around 100 minutes). It feels short and sweet, and I think it’s going to be fun to rewatch for fans of the film. Life also has great, convincing visual effects. And the creature design is perfectly creepy. ‘Calvin’ reminded me a little bit of one of the creatures from Prometheus, actually.

If Life didn’t work as well as it does, it would be one of those movies that people would constantly question how it managed to get such a great cast of actors. The six-man crew of the International Space Station is played by Ariyon Bakare, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds. Although they’re not all familiar faces to most people, the cast does include two A-list male actors. All of the aforementioned actors get their moments to shine, though, and, honestly, I was surprised by how well-acted Life was. It’s not just Gyllenhaal, Ferguson, and Reynolds. This is a good cast, and they do good work here.

There were some elements of the film that made me frown or role my eyes a bit, though. Some of the dialogue isn’t very good. There were one or two moments where the members of the crew don’t act as intelligently as one would expect them to. However, I actually thought the biggest problem the film had was that there were plenty of moments where the events of the film felt a tad too convenient.

But let me tell you this. When the movie was over, I was just really happy. Not because I didn’t like it, though. This is the kind of movie I’ve wanted to see for quite a while. While I actually liked Prometheus quite a bit, I think this is the movie I, and probably most of the general moviegoing audience, was hoping Prometheus would be. While I don’t really like the ending of the film, I just felt satiated when the film was over. It’s definitely not a perfect film, or one of the great films of the genre, but Life is exactly what I wanted it to be.

7.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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