Life was one of the bigger disappointments for me this year with a respectable cast and interesting, if not familiar, story that clearly took cues from Ridley Scott’s Alien. But while the execution was okay, though I didn’t find anything all that’s suspenseful, the script was a mess and perhaps a good re-write could’ve made a difference.
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Horror
Sony | R – 104 min. – $45.99 | June 20, 2017
Date Published: 06/20/2017 | Author: The Movieman
THE MOVIE — 2.0/5
Note: This review contains MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS.
There have been numerous copycats of Ridley Scott’s Alien and it’s a rather simple formula to follow. But beyond the blueprint of being trapped in space with a horrible creature hunting you, at the very least Alien had smart, well-round characters, to go along with some genuinely tense scenes. Daniel Espinosa’s Life has none of those things making for a frustratingly bad movie.
The movie takes place on the International Space Station (ISS) as a group of scientists each representing different countries: Dr. David Jordan (JAKE GYLLENHAAL), Miranda North (REBECCA FERGUSON), Rory Adams (RYAN REYNOLDS), Sho Mirakami (HIROYUKI SANADA), Hugh Derry (ARIYON BAKARE) and Ekaterina Golovkina (OLGA DIHOVICHNAYA). They are a part of a Mars mission and receive an unmanned shuttle containing soil samples from the red planet.
Doing some scientific things, Hugh manages to extract a seemingly dormant organism, which they name Calvin, which begins to adapt and eventually manages to ultimately escape containment. With every attempt to capture/kill Calvin, it only grows stronger and the race is on to not only survive, but make sure it never gets to Earth.
At its core, Life is at least a refreshingly simple film and if it were just that, I actually think this would’ve been a serviceable little sci-fi thriller that may not lay new ground in the genre yet entertaining. But it’s not just the plot. My biggest issue is the film is filled with theoretically smart characters doing and saying really, really, stupid things. Example: There’s one scene that’s supposed to be emotional in which Ekaterina, in space, is slowly drowning in her suit after Calvin rips through critical systems in the suit. David is trying to open the door to let her in but she fights him on the other side. Now, although it sure is an emotional moment for David, it was laughable that, after a few minutes of this, it takes Miranda to explain what Ekaterina is doing.
This is just one instance, beyond having to spoon feed to the audience what’s going on, at the expense of making these smarties look ridiculous, but, and this typical for horror, these character making really dumb decisions.
So the writing might stink but I can at least admire Daniel Espinosa’s film on a technical level. Again, this isn’t breaking new ground and while the CGI on Calvin is a bit wonky and looks a bit too video game-y, the weightlessness aspects did looks clean and the set design, for a small in appearance set, was pretty good.
In terms of the cast, I’m not entirely sure why they got the big names they did and wonder if the film, beyond some more script work, would’ve benefited with more unknowns. It’s not that the three big leads Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds give poor performances, though Reynolds plays up his trademarked snarkiness, but they can’t elevate the bad script.
Life, helmed by Swedish filmmaker Espinosa, who made a decent splash into Hollywood with 2012’s Safe House, doesn’t quite have what it took as, even if you remove the element of lame characters, that there’s very little suspense and the horror part doesn’t resonate, though two death scenes, one already mentioned earlier, were at the very least, unique.
As much as I disliked this film, I can’t say it isn’t worthy of a rental.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a title embossed slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.
Deleted Scenes (5:49; HD) – There are six scenes included here, mainly some little character moments but hardly anything to make the movie any better.
Life: In Zero G (6:54; HD) looks at how the weightless space scenes were accomplished, using wires and a floating track.
Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin (7:07; HD) breaks down the process of creating the alien creature.
Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space (7:28; HD) – This featurette examines the thriller genre set in such tight quarters with a relentless creature.
Astronaut Diaries (3:00; HD) are video clips of the actors in character.
Previews – Passengers, Baby Driver, Rough Night (Red Band), Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, T2 Trainspotting
4K VIDEO – 5.0/5, BD VIDEO – 4.5/5
|Life arrives on 4K presented in its original 2.39 widescreen aspect ratio and a 2160p ultra high-definition transfer. This is what UHD is all about with a wide array of colors, even with the horror element, and darker shots appear nice and stark without losing detail while images are incredibly sharp throughout. The Blu-ray disc meanwhile is no slouch as the 1080p transfer also provides well defined detail and colors look rather vibrant.
4K AUDIO – 5.0/5, BD VIDEO – 4.75/5
|For whatever reason, the 4K and Blu-ray discs come with two different audio codecs. The 4 comes equipped with a Dolby Atmos track which does sound incredible starting with the opening shot of the wayward shuttle to quieter scenes which make fine usage of the center channel while ambient noises and off-screen action come through the rear speakers. The Blu-ray includes an equally robust DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, Life was one of the bigger disappointments for me this year with a respectable cast and interesting, if not familiar, story that clearly took cues from Ridley Scott’s Alien. But while the execution was okay, though I didn’t find anything all that’s suspenseful, the script was a mess and perhaps a good re-write could’ve made a difference. This 4K release by Sony offers excellent video and audio transfers and a forgettable selection of bonus material.
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.