| A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.
It’s amazing how far we’ve come technologically since Alien in 1979, yet how little filmmakers have actually learned. It’s awfully hard to completely ruin the creature-in-an-enclosed space premise, and director Daniel Espinosa offers up at least a few genuinely tense, unsettling scenes as the intruder starts picking off victims. But the central dilemma—maintaining containment protocols to make sure the alien never gets to earth—feels too abstract, especially when the characters are given between zero to none character traits. And even that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, except that the CGI antagonist—which initially resembles a luminescent starfish—never becomes the kind of thing of which real movie nightmares are made.
From a purely technical standpoint, Life looks great. Veteran Seamus McGarvey’s (Atonement, Godzilla) camerawork dazzles, an opening sequence spotlighting the successful capture of the Mars probe truly extraordinary. As pre-credit opening title sequences go, this one is a corker, directed to perfection by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Child 44), special effects and editing all working in magnificent symmetry. It’s a glorious beginning, setting the anticipating level high for the remainder of the picture, making me understandably curious where things were going to go next. That got lost very quickly.
Because the biggest issue I got with this film is with it’s writers as the film suffers from major plot holes and stupid characters. Even the dialogue written by screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool, Zombieland) repeatedly mentions so much of what we can already see, it honestly made me hope Calvin (the CGI antagonist) wins in the end.
After all, the faceless probe feels more human than any of those cardboard cutouts made of flesh. The characters express such stupidly pathetic means of interaction, with laughable on-the-nose exchanges about love, death, and living on Earth. What was very cringeworthy for me was the scene with Gyllenhaal’s character reading “Goodnight Moon”, it was so laughably bad and you know something is wrong when even Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t interesting in a film. Another issue I had with the film’s story was when characters run, panic and fight for their lives one minute, the next scene finds everyone calm, relaxed, focused and not even looking over their own shoulder anymore. It’s scenes like these that made forget that these characters were worried about a creature trying to kill them. A film with this type of plot should be a continuous suspense thrill ride for the audience members.
Overall, Life is a disappointment and completely unnecessary. You can figure out the ending halfway through the movie, and you will probably hate it too. There are some decently suspenseful moments in ‘Life’ but not enough of them, and definitely not enough logic.
‘Life’ gets a 5.5/10.
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
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