by Lachlan Anderson
Rated MA15+. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds. Directed by Daniel Espinosa.
For centuries mankind has pondered our place in the universe and especially in this last century of space venture the idea of alien life hasn’t strayed too far from our collective imagination. Two basic scenarios tend to play out in alien themed pop culture. Either aliens come to earth in peace but we mess it up and attack them out of fear. Or, E.T. and his friends arrive and proceed to give us a mighty beat down. The new sci-fi thriller Life is very much in the latter category.
A team of astronauts and scientists aboard the International Space Station intercept the first soil samples sent back from Mars to Earth. What they discover and reanimate is a single cell organism, the first proof of life beyond our own. The creature, called Calvin, grows rapidly but isn’t as peaceful as hoped. The team have to fight for their lives against the superior life form and stop it from reaching earth and annihilating all life.
Made very much in the vein of classic sci-fi thrillers, Life is essentially a mix of the plot of Alien, and the visual style of Gravity. In both cases it is a second rate copy. Where Ridley Scott’s space horror was dark, silent, unexpected and had a nightmarish creature, Life is pretty predictable and tame in its scares. Likewise the promise of something visually exciting goes out the window after the opening scene’s admirable lengthy single take zero gravity sequence. Props should be given to the actors who do spend the entire film floating around. Wirework isn’t easy on the core.
Despite a strong cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, the script and performances don’t make it any easier to care about the crew aboard the ISS. Even the presence of Ryan Reynolds doesn’t add much life into the film. Yes, that pun was terrible.
It’s no surprise that a film called “Life” would have the occasional philosophical pondering. It doesn’t answer the big questions by any means, but in Calvin’s rebirth and following murderous rampage we see a creature doing simply what it is designed to do, survive. The station’s biologist even remarks that for life to flourish something else has to die. In the film Calvin has the evolutionary design to ensure his own survival at the cost of human life, but we aren’t so lucky in reality. The price of death is still necessary for life to be ensured. How reassuring it is that even in sci-fi horror films, there are ideas that clearly reflect the fact of Jesus’ death in order that we may have assured life.
The Verdict: Life cannot escape comparisons from the many great science fiction films that have come before it, but unlike Alien, this one is unlikely to stand the test of time (or enjoy a myriad of sequels). Uninspired and unmoving, it doesn’t deliver on thrills or performances. 2/5
Life is now showing in cinemas worldwide.