Life is a surprisingly effective space thriller, thanks to Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's polished script, the ensemble cast and director Daniel Espinosa's ability to keep up the momentum. It also has a killer ending that will surely please most.
Daniel Espinosa‘s Life is surely going to get a little grief for stealing the release thunder from Ridley Scott‘s upcoming Alien: Covenant, which itself looks like an Alien “return to form” flick, but Life is actually a different beast altogether, partly thanks to writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick — the guys behind last year’s smash hit Deadpool. Because of their script, Life manages to keep up with the high-octane space adventures and thrills, which makes for a clever little film that’s not going to blow your mind, but will definitely beat your expectations.
Life follows a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station. They’ve encountered soil samples from Mars, which happen to contain the first sign of actual life beyond Earth.
What they also encounter is a rapidly evolving alien Hell creature that is most likely responsible for wiping out former life on the planet of Mars some years ago.
Now, the main priority is to contain the creature on the space ship and destroy it if possible, because if it reaches the surface of Earth then it’s probably game over for all of mankind.
I know what you’re thinking; Life sounds like just about any other run-of-the-mill space horror flick and that’s kind of true. It definitely borrows a thing or two from films like Alien and just about any other genre film, but what makes Life stick out is its script, which is actually full of some simple movie logic.
Almost every kind of containment plan that I could think of while watching the film was actually thought of, which is usually a good sign. There’s little room for error and idiocy, outside of the occasional human screw up, but even those moments are kept to a minimum in the film.
Every member of the crew serves an actual purpose to the film in a way that is shown in the film and used to create a bond between the crew members. There’s no stereotypical characters that are simply present to get eaten alive and ripped to pieces and instead Life is a film full of people.
Ryan Reynolds even downplays his usual comedic schtick, which is a surprise, knowing that this is from the Deadpool team, but that’s because Reynolds understands Reese and Wernick’s vision and serves the greater point of the story.
Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal take the main bill, with shared ownership in terms of the actual film’s leads. Ferguson is initially the stronger one, unafraid to make the tough calls and smart enough to know when the creature is winning, yet Gyllenhaal turns in a surprise strong third act performance that makes up for him mostly coasting through the first chunk of the film as a pissed off loner that has no desire to ever return to Earth. Both play off of each other well, but don’t turn in show-stealing performances. It’s mostly just a well-rounded ensemble film, with no real breakouts.
The creature design in Life has a minimalist approach, but it works given the context. I’m usually against an all-CGI monster, but it makes sense in the film and rarely serves itself as a major disadvantage.
The R-rating is also refreshing and totally worth it, because the film approaches its subject matter with maturity and natural reactions, which may include the occasional F-bomb and a fair amount of zero gravity space blood, which is creatively executed.
Life heads in a predictable direction, but that’s okay, because the film finishes strong enough to make up for any of the tropes that it may have fallen into previously. Director Daniel Espinosa gives it a realistic look and feel, with very little future high tech gear and mostly space suits and tech that I feel like we already have (minus the oxygen sticks?).
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are the real winners, delivering a script that goes above and beyond what could’ve been considered acceptable. The rest of the pieces blend together to help give Life a distinct leg up on most films of this nature.
I doubt Life will be stirring up as much of a fuss as Ridley Scott‘s Alien: Covenant, which will bow into theaters later this May, but Life shouldn’t be written off just yet. There’s more than meets the eye on this one and I give it a strong recommendation for those looking for a little space action horror.