Life (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Life 4K UHD ReviewDespite loving all things sci-fi and horror Life is a movie I had been against ever since I saw the very first trailer on television last year.  I felt like it was such a ripoff of Alien that it did not even warrant my attention.  However, the one thing I could not deny was what an absolutely fantastic cast it has.  I have to admit that having Rebecca Ferguson (not related to Sean Ferguson by any means) made it more manageable to get me in the door.  Well that and my fiancee’s constant nagging that she was so excited for it.  She does so much for me that I have to take one for the team for her every so often.  Ha ha.  Fifty Shades Darker comes instantly to mind in that category.  LOL.  But I digress.  Today we’re here to talk about Sony/Columbia Picture’s new sci-fi picture, Life, not the Milton Bradley board game or the Venom movie spinoff hot off the press on the 4K Ultra HD format.



So despite not being a Venom spinoff, sorry guys, Life is billed as a science fiction horror film.  It’s directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Child 44) off a screenplay written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.  The movie essentially follows a six-member crew of the International Space Station, comprised of a great looking cast, that intercepts the first evidence of life on Mars.  The flick stars the main billing likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds and includes Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare and Olga Dihovichnaya as the remaining three astronauts.  There are a few more humans here or there, but none we really care about like our aforementioned magnificent six.

The six astronauts we spoke of up above are all aboard the International Space Station (ISS for short now).  They are on the cusp of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial “life” on planet Mars.  As you’ve probably seen from the trailers and miscellaneous TV spots the members of the crew conduct their research on the organic life form sample they intercept via a space probe returning from the red planet.  However, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone of them could have imagined.  Hence why I called this movie Alien.  The trailer looks like an Alien film and really does nothing to distinguish itself from that franchise.  The real question for me initially going in was would it be any different?  So trapped aboard the ISS with the rapidly-growing “alien” organism, the crew must find out how to kill it before it manages to escape and ravages the Earth.

The trick here is that this monster-in-the-house kind of space/alien film has been done many times before.  I was weary because of the small cast whether or not it would be entertaining because after all how long would it take for a superior alien life form to kill off six mortal astronauts.  The answer to that is not very long in my opinion.  Thankfully, that’s not the case here.  The movie is a brief one, clocking in a little more than 90 minutes, but it’s the tension throughout that even the sharpest knife can’t cut through that’s clearly the winner here.  When a lull arrives infrequently during this picture you’re actually kind of thankful because it means you can finally catch your breath and let your heartbeat settle down slightly.  Yes, it’s that same tension filled which makes it one of the reasons why I really liked Life as much as I did.  I haven’t felt that level of tension since the non-stop fight scenes of Mad Max: Fury Road or my first screening of Don’t Breathe.  I love it so!  Okay I’ll stop saying “tension.”  LOL.  That should be my keyword for this post.

So moving beyond my general feelings let’s talk about the three most obvious things here: the effects, creature and practical, the performances and the grand spectacle of it all.  Let’s tackle them in reverse just to be difficult here.  Life is a thrilling ride to say the very least.  It’s not a game changer by any means, but it has the right ingredients to hook, line and sink you right in.  Let’s face the facts.  There’s always that danger lurking around every corner when you talk about a monster movie, albeit one in outer space.  It’s that outer space aspect that takes it to the next level here.  The grounded realism of it all helped as were not talking about any technology here that’s too far off in the distant future.  Needless to say if you loved the perils of Gravity, you’re going to feel right at home here.  There’s also a great number of surprises given how simple a film this really is.  I think the ending is really going jar some people.  I mean that in a very good way.  And how about that cast?

Reynolds is pretty much likable in everything he does, but his screen time in this one…meh.  You can take that to the bank and cash it.  Gyllenhaal finishes strong as usual.  This cat always gives it his all.  Rebecca had me at hello so there’s really no need to dissect her performance in my opinion albeit it’s a strong one.  However, I really enjoyed what the ancillary characters added to this one from the charismatic and honorable Sanada to Olga and Ariyon’s supporting roles.  Everyone held their own weight throughout and there really wasn’t a lot of bloated exposition.  You kind of quickly discovered who each of the characters were through dialogue and I have no complaints there.  No time was wasted on long, boring backstories.  It felt like before you knew it Calvin was there.  Oh yeah.  Calvin is the name given to the alien here.  In addition I also adore how the actors were free to deliver intense and believable performances through the use of frequent F-bombs due to the R-rating.  That was very much appreciated, Sony.  Thank you!

Last but not least let’s talk about the effects both practical and the creature feature.  Was a 5-minute opening one shot full of constant gravity defying flips and turns a crowd pleaser?  Of course it was!  Was it necessary?  Of course it wasn’t.  However, it set the stage for what people could expect the next hour and a half.  It reassured me that we were in good hands from the point of view that we were not only going to feel the constraints of being in a spaceship with an alien hunting us down, but also the fear associated with the loss of gravity, lack of oxygen and the black, vast nothingness outside the vessel, which is known as “space.”  The creature for lack of a better word was unique.  I still can’t put my finger on what Calvin’s face reminds me of, but he’s a mean S.O.B.  He didn’t start out that way, but if you poke and prod a lab rat long enough they’re sure to get tired of it.  I don’t know.  I didn’t hate his final form in this movie effect-wise, but I wasn’t thrilled by it either.  Your results may very.  I think the filmmakers did as much as possible to try and separate it from being too Alien-like.  I must admit though that the floating blood drops were a nice touch.



The below video score and related critique of things here are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Life with some callouts to the Blu-ray version too.

  • Encoding: HEVC / H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2160p)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Size: UHD-66
  • Clarity/Detail: I don’t think there’s much to complain about here in the sharpness department.  There were a few dimly lit shots here and there, but nothing that would distract you from enjoying the intricately decorated sets as well as the many fine details in the instrument panels alone.  From pores, stubble and freckles on the humans to fine strands of hair on the lab rat everything looks appealing to the eyes here, especially Rebecca Ferguson (hubba hubba).  I did also notice the fine textures to be found from the door jams within the ISS to fabric inside the escape pods launched at the end.  I’d also feel foolish though if I didn’t mention the creature himself as despite being CGI even the littlest of veins are present in him.  Kudos to Sony for the killer little details in this one.
  • Depth: Here’s where Life looks like a million books in its depth of field presentation.  Not only are we dealing with the vastness of outer space or the long flowing hallways within the ISS, but there’s blood, sweat and tears floating almost 3D-like seamlessly with the onscreen action.  I thought cinematically these events looked fake in the theater, but they rather pop quite nicely in this 4K UHD presentation at home.
  • Black Levels: The black levels hold up quite well with a deep and inky, albeit natural look throughout.  And here’s where the difference between the 1080p Blu-ray presentation and the 4K one comes into play as nothing really gets lost in the shadows here thanks to the HDR.
  • Color Reproduction: Here’s where things get a bit wonky, but not really in a bad way…just a sterile one.  The colors have the ability to be bold and vivacious, but they are mostly muted, sterile and I would even say organic looking throughout.  Now with that being said I’m not displeased in the least about the way things look here.  It’s a dark, space thriller.  What do you want people, Lucy?  No!
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones were spot on perfect for my tastes.  They were healthy and natural looking throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: There’s absolutely nothing for me to nitpick here.  I didn’t really notice any excessive grain or other nasty imperfections that I needed to jot down during my viewing.  I suppose the instrument panels could get a bit hazy, but they are mostly in the background anyway.



Like I mentioned up above in the video section, the below audio score and critical comments of such are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Life.  The 4K UHD disc comes armed with a Dolby Atmos surround track, but the regular 1080p Blu-ray only comes equipped with a DTS-HD-MA 7.1 surround track.

  • Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russia, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish
  • Dynamics: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the lossless mix of things here, but it’s definitely not the best we heard from Sony thus far either.  However, a lot of that simply has to do with the subject matter itself.  We are in outer space here people.  For the most part if a bloodthirsty alien is not bouncing around the room and satellites are not crashing into you, things are inherently quiet.  It just is what it is.  You know what I mean?  On the flip side though when the action heightens and the tension thickens you better be certain the dynamics of this track get blood curdling thrilling.  The real secret sauce though here is the dialogue as it never gets lost in the middle of all the peril here.  You have to love that!
  • Height: There are many moments of great use of the Dolby Atmos height channels, but let me just mention a few: “thrusters up,” vibrations around the ship, incinerators, Calvin in the cupboards overhead, Calvin jumping out, crashes and more.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel is demanding, but it’s presence outside a small hum isn’t always felt in part due to the tranquility of space.  However, from meteors crashing and vibrations rocking the ISS to all the onscreen action and many thrilling moments such as the reentry into Earth at the end the subwoofer rises to the occasion when called upon.  Don’t you doubt that.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Here’s where I wanted to hear more.  Yes the ominous and tension filled space score makes it to the rears, but it’s not until Calvin gets out on the loose that you really feel immersed in this one.  That is with the exception of the last fifteen minutes or so where this one really rivets and rocks your viewing world.  Things you’ll hear in the rear channels include meteors crashing into things, small effects, voices, buzzers and alarms, rumble, action sequences, thrusters and my favorite…Calvin moving all about.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: I never had a problem hearing a spoken word in this one.  The dialogue levels are strong, loud and prominent throughout.



Packed with bonus materials, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set of Life includes deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes featurettes and the never before seen “Astronaut Diaries.”  In addition to these extras found on the 1080p Blu-ray disc, which also houses the film in HD, there’s a redeemable code for the Digital HD version of the film playable via your favorite UltraViolet retailer.  So like they started to do to the creature Calvin in the film, let’s dissect these five extras down below in more detail.

  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:49) – There’s a Play All option here or you can select the following deleted scenes individually: Jordan Examines His Stamp Collection, Adams Mending His Helmet, The Tang Breakfast Scene, Derry In The Gym, Adam’s Body Is Placed Inside His Pod and Sho and Jordan Talk.
  • Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space (HD, 7:28) – In this extra Director Daniel Espinosa and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick take fans through their dynamic approach to creating the tense cinematic thriller, Life.  They talk about how terrifying the monster is because it doesn’t make a sound and how they want this unknown story to feel like one that could really happen in today’s world.  The claustrophobia of the ISS instantly produces tightness and close quarters so just this location alone in my opinion accomplishes the task of bringing this “tight” thriller to life, no pun intended.
  • Life: In Zero G (HD, 6:54) – Here the cast and crew dive into the challenges of filming an entire film mimicking zero gravity.  These are always my favorite kind of extras to watch regarding space movies because I love all the wire work and how actors are forced to mimic the weightlessness and zero gravity atmosphere of it all.  It’s interesting to watch because outside of the gimbals and machines the actors are manipulated like puppets throughout most of this.
  • Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin (HD, 7:07) – This one’s all about the creature as fans can dive deep into the scientific reasoning behind the creation of Calvin and learn why it inspires both wonder and fear.  The filmmakers talk about Calvin’s biological existence, the way it moves, its pursuit of survival and the danger he presents.  They felt the scientific ideas behind Clavin be realistically correct, but also terrifying at the same time.
  • Astronaut Diaries (HD, 3:00) – This is one of those mockumentary extras where fictitious astronauts from the film, Rory Adams, Miranda North and Hugh Derry, all reveal their inner most feelings about their mission and life, in video diaries pulled directly from the station.  This one is not my cup of tea, but I can see fans still liking it.  YMMV.



All in all I feel Life is a very solid, albeit an effective thriller.  Strong performances fueled by constant tension, suspense, action, peril, distress and best of all a shocking twist makes this a solid recommendation to buy on 4K Ultra HD.  You definitely can’t go wrong with the cast.  As a manager at two distinct companies I keep myself very busy.  My life is very tension filled and stressful and the bumps and bruises you get from watching Life in 4K are no exception to that rule.  The tension was amazing in some scenes.  Take your breath away kind of amazing.  So if Gravity-like situations in outer space are your cup of tea coupled with a monster-in-the-house genre of storytelling, then you’ll eat Life up just like I’m about to eat my Halo Top ice-cream now.  Enjoy!


DISCLAIMER: This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review was judged and graded using the following 4K certified Ultra HD Premium television set found here and player here.  For your ultimate reading pleasure make sure to check out all our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews archived here.


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Life 4K UHD Review


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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