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Life (2017) Movie Review

Life (2017) movie poster Life

Theatrical Release: March 24, 2017 / Running Time: 103 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Daniel Espinosa / Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (David Jordan), Rebecca Ferguson (Miranda North), Ryan Reynolds (Rory Adams), Hiroyuki Sanada (Sho Murakami), Ariyon Bakare (Hugh Derry), Olga Dihovichnaya (Ekaterina Golovkina)

 

Life is classified as an original movie, but everything it does, Ridley Scott's Alien did first and did better.
That's not enough reason to dismiss this sci-fi thriller from the director of Safe House and the duo that wrote Zombieland and Deadpool. Scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have clearly had success blending genres and if you're looking to fuse sci-fi and horror, probably only John Carpenter's The Thing has come close to having the same impact as the masterful Alien.

Nonetheless, Life certainly crosses that line between homage and imitation. The film is set on a mission in which a six-member crew of the International Space Station has obtained soil samples from Mars. The diverse crew makes a spectacular discovery in the form of a single-celled organism that looks pretty darn adorable as it reacts to the movements of an English scientist (Ariyon Bakare) whose paralyzed legs can't hinder him in space.

Glass separates David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) from his colleague in space travel (Ryan Reynolds) and the alien organism threatening his life.

That historic discovery of extraterrestrial life sparks worldwide interest and an elementary school wins a contest to name it Calvin. But, despite the various precautions taken, the carefully-observed organism grows...and it grows deadly. Naturally, crew members are bumped off one at a time. Who will survive? Who will die? The poster's billing is only a little help there and I, of course, won't spoil the order of demise.

Life relishes those kills, lingering on shots of the alien organism striking, attaching, and sucking the...uh, life...out of these astronauts who are being heralded for making history. Never before has a movie paid so much attention to how drops of blood would behave in an atmosphere of microgravity. Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, and relative newcomer Olga Dihovichnaya portray the other five crew members. They don't have quite the same cache as the skeleton cast of Alien, but one day they might.

In "Life", Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) is one of six international astronauts whom discover extraterrestrial life on a mission to Mars.

If you haven't seen Alien, Life could blow you away. It's a haunted house movie where you can't escape the house. It's no spoiler to say that the deadly alien gets loose, putting everyone, including the viewer, on edge. Even if you have seen Alien, you should still find this engrossing and unsettling. Swedish director Daniel Espinosa seems to have found a copy of Scott's Alien playbook and follows it closely,
from establishing lightly comic camaraderie to making us fear that what we often can't see. This octopus-like alien is actually on display more than the domed antagonist of Scott's film and it seems to possess a higher level of intelligence and greater will to survive despite its less than anthropomorphic design.

Though it boasts a relatively modest mid-level budget of $58 million, Life looks nice, sufficiently conveying the confines of the space station and contrasting them to the vastness of convincing outer space on the other side of the air-locked doors. Life does lack an animal presence comparable to Alien's orange tabby Jones. The closest we get here is a lab rat we rightly fear is not long for this world. It also delivers something of a twist ending, which is as disarming as intended but might divide viewers as they leave the theater. If it's meant to set up a sequel, that seems awfully ambitious for a movie opening in March against several wide new releases with three blockbusters of different scales still attracting crowds. Frankly, Life seems like it would be lucky to break even this unusually competitive spring.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Kong: Skull Island Beauty and the Beast Logan
Jake Gyllenhaal: Prisoners Demolition Nightcrawler Nocturnal Animals Zodiac | From the Writers: Zombieland
Rebecca Ferguson: The Girl on the Train Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Florence Foster Jenkins
Ryan Reynolds: Buried Criminal Woman in Gold Adventureland | Hiroyuki Sanada: Sunshine The Railway Man Speed Racer
Sci-Fi: Arrival Gravity Interstellar Snowpiercer Passengers

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Reviewed March 23, 2017.



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