‘Life’ Is As Tension Filled As My Own (Movie Review)

Despite loving all things sci-fi and horror Life is a movie I’ve 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.  The one thing I could not deny was what an absolutely fantastic cast.  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.

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 going in then 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 heart beat 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.  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.

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 they did s 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.

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 go check out this weekend at the cinemas.  You definitely can’t go wrong with the cast and like I said up above.  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 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 dinner tonight.  Enjoy!





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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