FILM REVIEW | Life (2017)
(Film blurb begins) Astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds) aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined. (Film blurb ends)
Take one teaspoon of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), add two tablespoons of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013), and overcook the recipe, then you will have the formula for Life (2017); directed by Daniel Espinosa and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds. Life is not a waste of time. However, everything about it will not only seem familiar to most audiences but also done much better elsewhere. Life does not match the ‘you-are-in-space’ grandeur of Cuarón’s Gravity nor the claustrophobic horror of Scott’s Alien while still relying too heavily on many horror film cliches (e.g. people making stupid decisions, people going where they should not go, and so forth). Importantly, the Planet of the Apes-like twist at the end of the film (probably to leave open the possibility of a franchise) is completely unearned, representing poor writing, and likely to infuriate most audience members.
Reynolds is OK briefly playing his Deadpool character in space as the patented ‘celebrity cast member’ killed off early for shock effect (see Drew Barrymore in Scream or Samuel L. Jackson in the Deep Blue Sea). Gyllenhaal plays an astronaut who is probably too mentally unstable to be in space in the first place whereas the beautiful and compelling Ferguson is simply wasted. The story is not helped by Espinosa’s commitment to a 10-minute continuous tracking, opening shot that looks CGI-ed because the camera tends to focus on the back of actors’ heads. It serves as a poor means to introduce the audience to these characters. Eventually, the audience will not really care if any particular character survives or dies. Life is a case study in Hollywood running out of ideas and having nothing original to offer. At one point, I even found myself saying Private Hudson’s immortal words from Aliens (1986) on behalf of the film, “Game Over Man, GAME OVER!” Life could have used a Bill Paxton-like character, if only for comedic relief. Life is inoffensive and instantly forgettable. Mark’s Grade: C+