<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare, Hiroyuki Sanada
Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes
Expecting a sci-fi film but getting a horror movie in space was quite a pleasant shock.
Sure Life is reminiscent of Alien in some ways. It’s not as good as the Alien films but it certainly is as scary and bloody as they were. The International Space Station (ISS) retrieves a returning damaged survey pod with Mars soil only to discover that it contains a life form: ‘Calvin’. They soon realise that this Earth shattering discovery that was celebrated a few days ago turns into a nightmare for all aboard as Calvin grows bigger and ever more sentient in a thirst for blood. At first the rationale is that it’s doing it for survival. By the end, you’re not so sure.
Director Espinosa’s treatment of the film and the alien is so precise and unique that something just feels different about Life. We’ve seen the ‘aliens in space killing off astronauts or people on earth’ sci-fi movies. Life carries on with similar blood lust as each character is brutally killed – in ways that will make you squirm – as you tightly clutch your partner’s hand and turn away from the screen.
The fact that Calvin isn’t made to resemble a monster – at least not initially – also makes the devastation it causes more terrible to watch. It looks like an angel, how could it possibly eviscerate the insides of a human being that way?
Life tries to go for some deep moments where you have Jake Gyllenhaal reciting words from a fairy tale his father used to tell him. Yes he’s a fine actor and all the performances are top notch, but pauses like this don’t add much to the plot or our understanding of the characters. We just want to see how they can outwit the alien or how the alien can find a new way to disgustingly dismember its next victim. That being said, enough pathos is built up for us to care just that much for the characters and their fates.
Scary, gross, violent, terrifying at times, Life will have you tensing your muscles and wondering whether the valiant crew of the ISS can prevent Calvin from reaching Earth…
PS: Read this interesting article from hollywoodreporter.com ‘Life Director on the Ending He Insisted Couldn’t Be Changed’ (CONTAINS SPOILERS!)