Review: Life

The six members (Team leader Rebecca Ferguson, Microbiologist Ariyon Bakare, expectant father Hiroyuki Sanada, medic Jake Gyllenhaal, resident smart arse Ryan Reynolds, and token Russkie Olga Dihovicnaya) on board the International Space Station bring a soil sample from Mars on board. Bakare finds traces of life after examining the sample in his lab. Becoming utterly fascinated by the small, blobby organism, Bakare watches it grow. One day though…it stops growing. Stops moving altogether. Worried that it might have died, Bakare tries to give it the jolt of life…and the organism doesn’t much like that. In fact, it violently attaches itself to Bakare, crushing his hand. Growing stronger, more tenacious, and smarter it then proceeds to run amok on the space station, bumping the crew off. 

Director Daniel Espinosa (the flat “Safe House”, the complete mess “Child 44”) essentially gives us an unofficial remake of “Alien” with this 2017 sci-fi/thriller, scripted by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (who teamed up for the excellent “Zombieland” and the overrated snarkfest that was “Deadpool”). It won’t be a popular opinion, but I’ve never been a fan of the 1979 Ridley Scott ‘slasher movie in outer space’ and consider “Alien3 a better version of that idea anyway (with “Aliens” being the best in the series by far). I think this film is, like “Alien3 a better version of “Alien”, if ultimately still just a simple slasher movie in outer space.

There’s some nice camera movement inside the quarters of the ship, and early on Ryan Reynolds livens the film up with some good humour as the ship’s smart arse engineer. In a very typically Ryan Reynolds performance (despite originally intending to play the Jake Gyllenhaal part, before scheduling issues got in the way), he narrowly avoids the trap of coming off too much like Matt Damon and Chris Pratt in “The Martian” and “Passengers” respectively, finding his own brand of sarcasm. He steals the first 30 minutes of the film effortlessly, whilst Jake Gyllenhaal lays low, giving Reynolds room to shine. Meanwhile, I find Rebecca Ferguson a cold fish, but I can’t deny she’s well-cast here as a character who probably can’t let her emotions get the better of her.

I won’t deny it covers territory already mined by Ridley Scott (and others), but it’s mostly a really well-shot “Alien”-esque film where the characters are probably more intelligent and interesting than the space truckers of the earlier film. The CGI is pretty good, and the alien itself is more interesting and unique than most. It doesn’t look a whole helluva lot like anything on Earth, which is as it should be. It’s hard to shake the familiarity of the plot, but at least character and alien-wise, the film works. I also really liked the completely devastating, memorable ending. Quite a ballsy note to end on, actually.

A familiarity of plot is all that’s wrong with this otherwise well-made, well-shot, well-acted, and interesting alien-on-board flick. Worth a look, especially if like me, you’re not beholden to “Alien” as some kind of untouchable cinematic God.

Rating: B-


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