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Life (2017): 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital Review

Life (2017): 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital cover art
Life is now available on home video. Read our review of the 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray.

Life (2017) movie poster Life

Theatrical Release: March 24, 2017 / Running Time: 104 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)

Buy Life from Amazon.com: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

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.

Top-billed Jake Gyllenhaal plays one of six International Space Station members on a remarkable mission back from Mars in the sci-fi thriller "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.

The tiny alien organism that a school names Calvin seems harmless and downright cute at first.

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 that opened theatrically in March against several wide new releases while three blockbusters of different scales were still attracting crowds.

Frankly, Life seemed like it would be lucky to break even in an unusually competitive spring. In fact, it didn't, grossing just $30 million domestic and $99 million worldwide, falling short of profitability. The movie got another chance to find an audience in last week's physical media releases from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment including the 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD edition reviewed here.

Life (2017) 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com 4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray Disc Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS-HD MA (French, Portuguese), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service, Spanish, Thai)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Indonesian, Korean, Malaysian, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-66 & BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $45.99
Also available as Blu-ray + Digital HD ($34.99 SRP), DVD ($30.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video
Black Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

VIDEO and AUDIO

Even if you can't buy into its thrills, you should be able to appreciate Life visually and aurally. The sturdy production looks fantastic, whether you're judging it by the standards of Blu-ray's 1080p or by 4K Ultra HD's even higher resolution. The 2.39:1 picture is rich and detailed, while the 7.1 DTS-HD MA sound consistently packs a punch.

Making-of featurettes show us the filming of scenes in simulated Zero G conditions. Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) provides a light-hearted contribution to "Astronaut Diaries."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras, which play automatically after the film ends,

begin with a section of six deleted scenes (5:49). Featuring unerased wires on the actors, these bits include one climactic dramatic moment and mostly disposable short bits.

Short making-of featurettes begin with "Life in Zero G" (6:54), which lets the cast and crew discuss making an entire movie suspended on wires to simulate zero gravity.

"Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin" (7:07) comments on the story, with scientific advisors vouching for the alien life form.

"Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space" (7:28) is the discs' closest thing to a general making-of piece.

Finally, "Astronaut Diaries" (3:00) offers the first-person logs of three of the crew members: Rory Adams, Miranda North, and Hugh Derry.

The discs open with trailers for Passengers, Baby Driver, Rough Night (red band), Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, T2 Trainspotting, and Starship Troopers: Traitors of Mars, plus a promo for Life bonus features. The "Previews" listing repeats all of the trailers in the same order. No trailer for Life is included here.

The main menu attaches score to a straightforward adaptation of the poster art that has been refashioned for the cover design.

Topped by an embossed slipcover, the black side-snapped keepcase holds the two color-coded discs along with an ad for 4K Ultra HD and a Digital HD/Sony Rewards code insert.

Awe turns to horror for Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada), and their fellow crew members as the alien organism grows...and grows deadly.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

In space, no one can hear you scream. Life tries hard to be a new generation's Alien, but it struggled to find an audience even a fraction as large as the still underperforming latest sequel to that Ridley Scott sci-fi franchise. The people missed a decent and nice-looking thriller, one that unsettles without having the impact or originality of Alien. Sony's 4K edition boasts tremendous picture and sound, but a pretty average handful of extras.

Buy Life from Amazon.com:
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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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 June 25, 2017.



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