I found myself in the mood for some sci-fi-ness and decided to watch Life. I didn’t know much about Life going into it, but who does really? Life is a complicated journey. Sorry, off topic! I’m supposed to be talking about the 2017 movie, Life, from Skydance Media, which I also didn’t know much about going into it. I knew that it had a pretty solid cast lineup, had something to do with being out in space and that it was a horror/sci-fi/thriller. All that filled my sci-fi quota enough to give it a spin.
Now, for a hundred and four minutes you’ll be floating around in space with six scientists that are on the International Space Station. As all movies start out, things are good. Then one day the crew captures a prob returning from Mars. Come to find out the probe was carrying a soil sample that it had collected from Mars and that’s when a major discovery is made. Hugh Derry, the station’s Exobiologist, finds a dormant cell in the Mars soil sample and revives it. It’s not long after that the crew realizes that life is pretty easy going until you go and revive a mysterious dormant cell. Then it’s all about running for your life!
As far as the story that Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick came up with, I thought it was good. Something that I think really helped the movie was that didn’t spend a lot of time following the everyone around doing a bunch of mindless tasks during the introduction of the crew. Yeah, we meet everybody and we do watch them work, but it doesn’t drag out to a boring state. It’s just enough to get a feel for the crew’s day to day lives and show the audience how calm everything usually is, right before they unleash the storm. Now, here’s where things get a bit tricky. Even though I liked Life’s opening pace, that same pace then turned into a negative for the characters. Less time spent dragging around, in the beginning, is more time spent running for your life later on in the movie, which is cool. However, less time spent with the characters in the beginning and you end up not caring if or when characters die, which then hurts the film’s overall appeal. A film’s pace is a double edge sword that hurts a lot of films and only a few have found that perfect balance. Unfortunately, Life just wasn’t one of those films.
Like I said, I liked the opening of the movie and things only got better as the story took off. Now, I don’t know if it was because the movie was in space and it had people running for their lives as a creature was chasing them down or what, but I kept getting a vibe of Aliens (1979) more and more as things went on. Well, minus the “scary” creature, guns and a kickass female lead. Um, maybe Life was nothing like Aliens after all… Either way, as a scientist based (nothing like Aliens) space adventure, I liked how everything unfolded and the story did a really good job at keeping you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. There are a few spots where things kind of drag a bit. Keep in mind the crew is on a space station, so there’s only so many places to run to or hide at. So, things get a little slow as they play hide and seek with the creature. Usually, during those slow moments, the story hits you with a big action follow-up scene to pick things back up and get you interested again.
I thought the cast line up was awesome! You get to see Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool), Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko), Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), Olga Dihovichnaya (House of Others) and Ariyon Bakare (Dancing On The Edge) float around in the story. What surprised me was even though there were some seriously skilled actors in the cast, there was some serious lacking in the acting department. Everyone seemed flat and like they were still at the table running lines to get a feel for the scene; Then left said feels back at the table. Now, when someone was dying I was sold, but during dramatic, life hanging in the balance, moments I wasn’t.
I can’t say enough good things about the visuals and effects. First off, the creature looked great! It’s nothing “scary”, but for this movie, it actually made things better. The typical, tooth and claw filled, horror creature works in most films because you can tell by looking at it how dangerous it is. Here, the less is more was a perfect call, because it doesn’t look threating but has a threat level up there with the tooth and claw creature features.
The movie is rated R for langue and violence, but it never gets gory. Yeah, there are some brutal scenes, like watching a man get his hand (twisty) broken and there’s some floating blood around as things go horribly bad for people. I think the most intense scene was when a poor soul was attacked and we watched as his body went into convulsions. You couldn’t see what was actually happening to him, but by watching his pain you knew… it was nothing good.
Now, if you’re a Blu-ray fan and haven’t picked this one up yet, but are thinking about it here’s what you’ll get out of it. The bonus features for Life are Deleted Scenes, Three Featurettes (Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space, Life: In Zero G & Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin) and Astronaut Diaries, which is the cast still in character explaining their roles aboard the space station.
Overall, Life turned out to be a film with a good story, more visual eye candy than expected, but not much to lean on with the characters. All that said, I still enjoyed it and think it’s worth a watch if you’re scratching for a sci-fi fix.