By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s film review is of a movie that’s deep, meaningful and worldly; with a twist of alien horror and edge-of-your-seat, cleaning your underpants type of thriller.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa, Life stars an array of talent including Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya and Hiroyuki Sanada.
Sci-fi is one of my favourite genres, to say I was pumped for Life would be an understatement…
Life follows a team of scientists (Gyllenhaal et al) aboard the International Space Station, from different countries and walks of life, who make a universe-changing discovery. They extract a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars and bring it on the ISS. It begins life as a measly cell that grows hour on hour from the oxygen supply. As the life form grows, so does its threat – putting the crew and all life on Earth at risk.
We begin with the introduction of the crew members, quickly establishing that Reynolds is the cocky one, Gyllenhaal is the lonesome adventurer one and Ferguson longs for home. Within 15 minutes of the opening scene, the team rescue precious cargo from the red planet. Found within the soil samples collect is a cell capable of life. The scientists feed and water Calvin – the cell named by a competition winner on Earth – making the life form become more alien form. Calvin quickly figures that it can out-smart the crew, thus leading to grizzly endings for the ISS members.
The surprisingly long runtime of one hour and 43 minutes’ flies by – and you want it to – as you’re pinned to your seat and checking there’s no out of this world objects lurking near you in the cinema. Life plays with your mind and makes you believe this could actually happen at some point to our crew members in space, it’s surely plausible?
Calvin begins its young life like an interesting, little flubber-like friend of the spaceship but it quickly turns into a huge starfish-looking beast with teeth that a great white would be proud of. Of course, the more crew members it can get at, the more Calvin can grow.
Life has a sufficient genre mixture of touching drama and space-thriller. There’s scenes of graphic violence with two in particular that make you wince just thinking about them – let alone trying to watch them through your closed fingers. But there’s also tender moments shared between Jake and Rebecca that somehow makes the movie a little homelier, even if they are 400 kilometres from Earth.
But who are we kidding? If you buy a ticket to see Life, you know exactly what you want from this film. You want a sci-fi horror where an alien picks off a crew member one by one in a disgusting and disturbing manner – and you get those clichés here. It’s like Final Destination meets Gravity. The gore is on point, the acting is impressively masterful and the camera work is adventurous with smooth point-of-view shots gliding across the screen like you’re in the ISS with them – providing a little motion sickness if I do say so myself.
Overall though, Life won’t disappoint the sci-fi thrilling movie-goers out there. If you can ride the clichés and the pretty simple narrative; there’s quite a lot to enjoy here. You also get violence from Calvin that I can’t really remember in any other alien film which is a positive, and you get another dose of one of the best working actors today, Jake Gyllenhaal. Oh, and by the way, that ending will shit you up.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3.5 Stars
Life is out now worldwide in cinemas – certificate 15