Movie Review: ‘Life’ is very familiar but still thoroughly entertaining
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare
Synopsis: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.
Life is a science fiction horror film that delivers on both the science fiction and the horror. With an all-star cast of actors attached, Life is quite the thrill ride from beginning to end. Despite its all too familiar tropes and predictable similarities to other films, Life still manages to be quite the enjoyable film. The film does not necessarily hold any new substance, but Life is still a thrilling experience that takes advantage of the science fiction horror genre.
Life surrounds a group of scientists aboard the International Space Station tasked with recovering a satellite knocked off it’s course. After retrieving the satellite the team discovers a brand new life form that was living on Mars. Through careful research the team learns that the lifeforms is deadly and harmful, and they must kill the life form before it returns to Earth. Even though this setup feels all too familiar, the film still holds some gripping moments.
The entirety of the film gives an almost “deja vu” like feeling. From scene to scene it feels like we are just watching something that we have already seen before. Whether it be the lightweight cinematography that we saw in Gravity, or the immense amounts of tension that we saw in the Alien franchise, Life brings nothing new to the table. From the way that the film is shot and edited, to the way that the story unfolds from beginning to end, Life tightly holds onto the movies that it pays respects to but it transcends those familiarities with superb execution.
One thing that Life does actually master is the way it builds tension. Once the life form is introduced as a threat to the characters, the film oozes with suspense. The most powerful form of this suspension building is through the mindset of the villain. Which is something that we receive almost purely visually. When the life form first begins wreaking havoc throughout the space station, the filmmakers introduce to us that the life form is rather intelligent. Through solving different scenarios that the villain is faced with, it creates an almost everlasting fear with the audience. The life form does not necessarily appear threatening, at least in the first half of the film, but when it is shown to us that the life form has a greater intelligence then imagined we literally begin shaking in our seats. Versus giving the life form a menacing or terrifying appearance, it rather frightens us with our inability to understand its potential. Throughout the entire second act of the film, the life form evolves and modifies itself to the situations that the space crew finds themselves in. When the crew thinks that they have discovered a new way to defeat the alien, the alien counters. This cat and mouse style of horror lasts literally up until the last frame of the film, giving you that everlasting feeling of your stomach sinking.
Life is a film that is strictly focused on being entertaining. From how the characters interact with one another, to the glorified spectacle of the movie, to the way it is shot, edited and presented, Life isn’t interesting in being unique but rather cinematic. Despite the overwhelming amount of familiarity, the movie still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat and wondering what is going to happen next. From its great use of building tension through the alien, all the way to how it goes about presenting the horrors that the alien possesses, Life certainly knows how to keep its audiences attention.
Overall Grade: B
Hear our podcast review on Episode 214: