Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya
Directed By: Daniel Espinosa
Plot: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station come in contact with a single cell organism from Mars, that quickly turns into a nightmare.
What Works: I have two choices. I can talk about this film really in depth, but also with spoilers, or I can talk about the film semi-briefly in a mostly overview format, and avoid spoilers. I think this film has some interesting points to it, so I’m actually going to avoid spoilers. One of the things I liked most about this film was that it likes to throw plausible twists in as much as possible. It was one of the things I enjoyed most about the film, so I’ll keep it fresh for you. This film basically is like someone saw Alien and went “but what if this happened instead…” and they wrote Alien, but their spin on it. It doesn’t feel so much like a ripoff, as rather Alien with a different set of choices. This crew is comprised of scientists, and they don’t have weapons really to fight back with. They have to use their brains to try and outsmart the alien, and I think that works really well. Plus, the cast is great, from the name actors, to the unknown supporting characters. Also, I loved the character design for the Alien, and the special effects are stunning. I feel like Life has potential to be a cult hit, once more people see it. It’s a really well made movie, that is smart, and well acted. It’s easily the best thing Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Child 44) has directed so far.
What Doesn’t Work: I do take away a few points for originality and formulaic structure. Yes, this has worked before, and even though you make a few alterations to the story to make it interesting, you’re still following a layout that has been tried and tried again. Also, aren’t there more people on the ISS? Maybe I’m wrong, but I almost felt like this film could have used a few more characters in space, or at least an explanation as to why they were “low” in numbers at that time. And while I won’t spoil the ending, I will say that I have both a love/hate relationship with it. I love the twist, but I also think that there are decisions made in the final frames that are unrealistic decisions that no person would actually make.
Final Word: I was pleasantly surprised by Life. Now that it’s on video, I’d definitely suggest giving it a chance. It was a lot better and smarter than I thought it would be, and features some strong performances, especially from Gyllenhaal.
Final Grade: B+