Quick Hit: This space horror film has mixed moments.
Humans have an innate fear of outer space. It’s something that has been explored by science fiction since we first really began to dream about visiting the stars. We have a fear of the expanse, of the planets, of the rocks, and yes, of the possibility of life. It’s no wonder that so many movies, including this one, deal with aliens that want to eat your insides and crawl out of your orifices.
Life is technically a very impressive movie. The effects throughout are really spectacular, even if I thought that the creature design (which at its heart is essentially a space starfish/octopus hybrid with the monster from Little Shop) was a bit derivative. It’s the space effects that really take it to the next level, with some really breathtaking scenes shot of the outside of the ISS. There’s also a convincingness to the scenes that lack gravity – astronauts buoy themselves from place to place using their hands, and the straps that had to be in place have been edited out masterfully.
The actors, which include Ryan Reynolds (playing a mouthy engineer – would you expect any less), Jake Gyllenhaal , Hiroyuki Sanada (Sunshine and The Wolverine) and Rebecca Ferguson (of The Snowman and The Girl on the Train), all play out their cliché driven roles expectedly. There’s even a Russian leader of our ragtag troop to complete the cliché. Gyllenhaal manages to bring some emotion to the role, even though most of the movie he spends either yelling at other people or looking morose. I think the problem here is that we didn’t get quite enough camaraderie. Movies like Alien (more about that one in a moment) work best when they really allow to focus on the character before they are mercilessly killed by an unknown creature. Otherwise, just watch a movie like Friday the 13th.
Life immediately got called out for being an Alien knockoff by those that saw it in theaters. And while, in some sense, I agree with them, I’d say that at times it manages to carve out its own niche for itself. The one thing that truly sets it apart is the sound mixing/editing. When the creature strikes someone, you hear every squelch, every bite, every messed up thing that could haunt you into the night. A lot of times horror films really skip over this in order to get to the screams, but here it focuses on the one lesson it learned for sure from Alien – “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream”.
Overall Life is an average and forgettable movie. Even the twist ending, which most will see coming, is forgettable. For that, it gets an average grade of a “C-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"