‘Life’ tells the story of six astronauts who work on the International Space Station. They receive a collection of samples from Mars and quickly learn that we are not alone in this universe. With a star studded cast & a running time under the two hour mark, ‘Life’ looked set to be a fun old style alien attack movie. In contrast to the often quite long & more intellectual sci-fi pieces we are seeing more of these days there was definitely room for this sci-fi adventure to be a boisterous blockbuster flick!
As I’ve mentioned already the film has a cast of high profile performers including Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal & Rebecca Ferguson. These big names help make the film that bit more watchable, who doesn’t want to see some of their favourite actors face off against aliens in space!? Reynolds is clearly enjoying the popularity of his sarcastic misbehaving alter-ego Deadpool as he plays a character with a similar temperament here. He manages to secure himself one of, if not, the best scene in the movie proving himself a good addition to the cast. Ferguson continues her run of successful mainstream roles here after appearing in ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’ & ‘The Girl On The Train’. She is the closest thing the film gets to a main character, despite the ensemble feel, and is very likeable in this role. Gyllenhaal is fortunate in that his character receives the best writing and therefore highlights the lack of this in his onscreen colleagues. More thorough writing and development was needed for the characters here, if this had of been achieved audiences would be able to become far more invested in the film as a whole. Thankfully the talent & charisma of the cast pull the film through this but if it had been looking to improve this would have been the best place to start.
Attempting to make it’s mark on sci-fi horror history alongside the likes of the Xenomorph, the Thing & the Predator is Calvin; the alien tasked with tormenting the characters in ‘Life’. The special effects utilised in creating the look & movement of Calvin are wonderful. The work here showcases why practical effects just aren’t always enough. I did think the design of the alien could have been made more horrific though. A more terrifying design certainly would have heightened the tension and would have made it more memorable in years to come. Nonetheless, the creativity and visual look achieved with this antagonist deserve praise.
Whilst I’ve discussed the more blockbuster merits of the film ‘Life’ does have intellect too. The beginning of the film is in fact laden with scientific language that went straight over my head. It isn’t just a dumb fun kind of flick, there is definite evidence of thought & research amongst the writers here. The film’s overall narrative isn’t all that original but if a film can be entertaining this doesn’t bother me. There is the essential tension that is needed in any sci-fi horror present, it’s wildly entertaining to be caught up in it all. The action that the film has is well executed too, the tension enhances this element a lot. There are glimpses of creativity to be found in several of the sequences too which was appreciated. The film has a somewhat predictable finale but it’s still very effective and elevated the film leaving audiences with the potential peak of the narrative.
‘Life’ will be bashed for it’s similarities to previous entries into the genre, which is a shame. I instead choose to view the likeness as inspiration rather than unoriginality as this film has its own ideas to share too. The likeable cast shine in this interstellar setting despite their slightly lacking characters. In a film as entertaining & tense as this that small flaw can be excused. It’s solid sci-fi fun, with a more memorable alien design it could have been something even better. However, audiences should be more than satisfied with what has been created here as in an otherwise good film there are several great moments.
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite sci-fi horror film of all time?
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