I was expecting a fairly paint-by-numbers Alien wanna-be with Life, the new sci-fi horror film directed by Daniel Espinosa (Easy Money, Safe House, Child 44). But writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool) actually manage to give Life a few notable differences that keep the film from being a waste of time and film stock.
A team of scientists aboard an International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now is a threat to all of them, and all life on Earth.
Sure, with that tagline why wouldn’t you think it was just another Alien rip-off? It’s the same damn premise. And how are they going to make it as good as Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic? Well, they aren’t. Realistically speaking, It’s not as good as Alien. But it does offer some solid and worthwhile elements.
What do I like? I like the ensemble cast. With people like Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Fergeson (Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation), Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada (Ringu, Ringu 2, The Last Samurai, Sunshine, Lost, The Wolverine), Olga Dihovichnaya (House of Others), and Ariyon Bakare (The Dark Knight, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Doctor Who), it’s hard to go wrong. They are all solid here.
They are also all given unique back stories, and they all get pretty equal screen time. We get to know each of them – certainly more than most films with this kind of ensemble cast. There is also an organic quality to their interactions – they all felt very natural. And to top it all off, Life keeps you in the dark about who is or isn’t going to survive. There is no “Ripley” type character here. It’s pretty much anyone’s guess as to will make it to the end.
The effects are excellent. And the creature is pretty unique and seems to stick to a reasonably scientific plausibility – for a science fiction horror film, anyway. And the scenes of horror/gore (not super gory, but some great implied unpleasantness), are particularly disquieting. It’s not easy to show us something we haven’t seen before, but there were a couple of scenes that stood out.
Life sets up nicely and gives us what we need with these characters early on and moves things along for the most part, with the exception of a little bit of a drag in the first third. At 1 hour 44 minutes, they could probably have shaved a few minutes in there. But the middle does it’s job well, and the third act is tense, albeit not as emotionally rewarding a it falls into some more familiar territory. However, the ending – though really only leaving itself two options – makes the right choice.
Life isn’t going to win any awards, but it has the money and looks of an A picture even though it’s really a B grade sci-fi horror movie. But it’s a pretty fun ride if you don’t raise the bar too high. I enjoyed myself for that reason. It’s an entertaining time at the theater, and I give it just over three kittenhands.
~ Neil T Weakley, your average movie-goer, filling my slate of films to see again.