Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Running Time: 103 mins
Life is an American film about a team of astronauts onboard the International Space Station that receive a specimen of life from the surface of Mars. As they study it intensely, they discover its incredible capabilities, capabilities that threaten them all, as well as the life of the entire Earth.
This was a surprisingly exciting film. For a movie that looks to effectively borrow the premise of Gravity and Alien, Life is actually a very well-directed, well-acted and entertaining sci-fi horror. With a threatening villain that works well throughout, and a rapid pace, it’s the sort of film that’ll definitely make you tense, even if it’s not quite the edge-of-your-seat thriller it could be.
But let’s start off with the obvious. We’ve pretty much had this exact story before. A group of human space explorers come across life, and it turns out that life is hostile and threatens all of human civilisation. That’s the premise of the sci-fi horror classic: Alien.
So, with the same plot, I expected Life to be an underwhelming remake of Alien. On the one hand, it doesn’t quite have the unique haunted house feel of Ridley Scott’s classic, but on the other, it takes the formula and makes it work very well from start to finish.
The plot does lose points for originality, but when it comes to making a sci-fi horror, Life is a surprising success. With an effortlessly simple story that involves a few astronauts under constant threat from a seemingly invincible alien, with the even bigger worry that it will reach and destroy Earth, there’s a lot of fun to be had from this film as a tense and exciting thriller.
I can’t say that any of the characters are so well-developed, however. You’ve got the same sort of backstories as the leads of Gravity, which aren’t really that compelling. So, what is it there to make you care about the main characters of Life staying alive?
Simply put, it’s the performances. Again, they’re nothing on the level of Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, but the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal and others are so likable that you do want to see them stay alive. Their characters aren’t the most intelligent, but the performances that the whole cast put in here are excellent, and that’s why you can care about the fate of the few astronauts under threat, something that makes the whole film a lot more entertaining to watch.
When it comes to the film’s villain, it’s pretty much the same as Alien. A well-designed creature that’s very threatening to see on screen throughout (although its evolution throughout the film is a little much), it’s the reason that there’s any real sense of horror in this movie. As director Daniel Espinosa doesn’t hold back when it comes to gore and gruesome violence, the alien here has the same effect as the villain from Alien, a relentlessly evil creature that will stop at nothing to brutally destroy all those who it comes across.
Of everything, however, Espinosa’s direction is the best part of Life. Apart from the fact that the visual effects make this look absolutely stunning throughout, Espinosa gives the film a very fast pace that keeps it exciting, as you’re almost always watching the characters desperately trying to escape from the alien menace.
I do think that this film could have had a more claustrophobic atmosphere, bringing it a little closer to what made Alien work so well, but on the whole, it’s fair to say that Espinosa does a great job at getting as much tension and excitement out of this story as possible by making a fast-moving and visually thrilling spectacle.
Overall, I really enjoyed Life. It’s not a perfect film, and not on the terrifying, nail-biting level that it perhaps wants to be, but as a blockbuster horror movie, it’s exciting and tense throughout, whilst its stunning visuals and very strong performances help to make it even more entertaining, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.