Life is a well paced thriller that features great performances but its an Aliens knock-off disguised as a sci-fi horror drama about life and survival.
The six-member crew of the International Space Station is on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As the crew begins to conduct research, their methods end up having unintended consequences and the life form proves more intelligent than anyone ever expected.
Released a couple of months before Alien: Covenant comes out (and maybe trying to ride the hype around it), Life is another story about man’s quest for life outside earth only to find regret and death.
Life features a lean and well paced thriller that plunges the audience headfirst into the story – a six-member crew discovers an organism on a sample extracted from Mars. Hugh Derry manages to coax the extraterrestrial back to life and enters the annals of human history.
The script doesn’t give much, but the actors make the most of slivers of characterization. Ryan Reynolds plays another smart-ass character but brings levity to the plot-driven story while Jake Gyllenhaal turns pieces of his backstory into poignant human drama.
The rest though are as forgettable as the rest of the movie. Life is one part generic horror creature feature and one part generic monster movie in space with borrowed ideas from better movies – Alien and Gravity.
If you replaced Calvin with any other seemingly indestructible monster and the six-member crew with characters stuck somewhere remote and isolated, you get the same results. Human beings poke around into things that they should have left alone and make stupid mistakes while plot conveniences keep the plot moving. At some point, a scientist electrocutes Calvin to wake him up out of hibernation and creates his own Frankenstein monster. Here, the bogeyman is so intelligent that it quickly learns how to use a glass implement even though it grew on a Petri dish.
The movie conjures the claustrophobia and dangers of space, borrowing visuals from Gravity and operating on the same premise as Aliens. These are not bad movies to get inspired by and any sci-fi film will inevitably get influenced by these two great flicks. However, Life doesn’t take any of its ideas somewhere compelling, creative or even remotely original. A group of hapless individuals are stuck in a tomb in space with an alien. Shit happens.
Eventually Life devolves into a survival story of good looking people you don’t care about with a predictable ending.
The movie does have some potent ideas somewhere. In a brief moment, the movie talks about creation and destruction. From a purely scientific point of view, there’s no difference between a human being using livestock for sustenance with extraterrestrial life forms using another specie to evolve. Human beings are maybe more interested in finding a means to escape a society that its peers builds and destroys by exploring space, rather than space itself.
Unfortunately, none of these are fully utilized or explored. Instead it recycles other tried and tested ideas from its genre for a safe and neatly packaged monster movie in space.
Overall Life is still a serviceable and watchable flick with thrilling moments albeit forgettable. At best, it can serve as a mediocre appetizer to Alien: Covenant.
My Rating: 5/10