Life (2017): Film Review

When Life was first announced, I groaned because the sci-fi genre has been done to death recently and I didn’t think we needed a new space movie. It isn’t original by any means but it is still a very enjoyable and seriously intense thriller.

Life follows a crew on the International Space Station who are on a mission to see if there is life on Mars. They bring samples from the planet in for testing and Hugh Derry  (Ariyon Bakare) discovers a single cell organism that seems to respond to oxygen etc. The life form is all muscle and brain meaning it is very strong and clever and it soon breaks free from its isolation chamber. Naturally, all hell breaks loose.

What’s most interesting is that Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds are pitched as the leads and have been doing a lot of promo but they don’t seem like the stars of the piece. It is mostly about Derry and Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), who is in charge of quarantine protocols. Reynolds isn’t in it as much as you would expect and Gyllenhaal only really gets to shine towards the end.

It is very familiar and you can’t help but think of the Alien movies on many occasions. It wasn’t completely unoriginal though and Life contains so ace differences – a shock death early on, zero gravity blood, an interesting and at times disorientating camera style and a death during a spacewalk. These elements are where Life excels because they feel fresh and exciting and not like we’ve seen it all before.

Reynolds basically played himself, Gyllenhaal was excellent, especially towards the end, but Ferguson was the emotional heart of it as she had to make the tough decisions. The cast was rounded out by Japanese astronaut Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Russian team leader Kat (Olga Dihovichnaya), who were great additions.

I love sci-fi films, especially space-based thrillers, and Life didn’t disappoint. It is scary, there is a growing sense of foreboding and claustrophobia and the threat never really lets up from the first death. It is very gruesome and intense and the action whipped along so quickly, the film felt shorter than it was. Sure, it treads old ground, but it is so entertaining that I stopped comparing it and enjoyed it for its own sake.

In cinemas now 

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