This review was written by Anthony J Digioia. Follow him and his website here for more awesome reviews: SilverScreen Analysis
“Life” has a solid cast headlined by; Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds and it is directed by Daniel Espinosa who worked films such as “Safe House” and “Child 44”.
The plot in this one is pretty simple. You have a small crew aboard a space station who are working a mission to find life on Mars. They receive a pod from the planet; and quickly begin getting to work and it isn’t long before they discover something astonishing. They have found a life-form. When they continue their tests and research, the realize they’re dealing with something far out of their control. Something that soon threatens everyone on the ship.
So, right out of the gate I will say if you are going into this one expecting a science-fiction movie along the lines of “Arrival” or “The Martian” you will not be impressed. This was a simple horror/thriller that used the science-fiction genre as the setting, more than it did for the substance. Therefore, if you want to see a movie more along the lines of “Alien” or “Event Horizon” then you will certainly get some enjoyment in this.
The cast performances were all solid. But the writing was not the best. The characters were thin, almost completely un-developed, and it was clear the cast made the most out of the roles they had to work with. You don’t really know anything about these characters other than possibly, one trait that is conveyed quickly in the dialogue.
Each character gets a little splash of it, then we are right off into the story as the tension ramps up regardless of whether or not you actually care about the characters. So rather than really being invested in the story this one turns into watching to see if Reynolds, Gyllenhaal and Ferguson will make it out of space. Not David, Miranda and Rory, the actual characters they were playing.
Now this wasn’t a deal breaker by any means. It was a fun movie to sit through. It ramps up tension very well. Director Daniel Espinosa did a fantastic job of utilizing the confined area of the space station with some excellent camera work. It was a visually polished movie, that did create suspense and uneasiness as this creature roams the ship.
I also thought the CGI and special-effects were very well done. They gave this creature a unique unassuming look and it fit perfectly into this story, without ever feeling like it was going overboard. So, for the genre of science-fiction horror, a genre that is already loaded with clichés, this was an entertaining albeit somewhat forgettable movie.
If you have seen these types of movies whether it being set in space, or set at deep sea, where characters are fighting for their lives in confined spaces then you fill find this one extremely predictable. If you haven’t, then you will get much more out of it.
But regardless it was a good, simple, paint by numbers sci-fi horror/thriller that was boosted by its cast. It doesn’t try to stretch thing out too long which helps from it wearing out its welcome. This one certainly had its moments and its worth checking out. But maybe at home kicked back on the couch.
Ok, so let’s get into some spoilers. If you haven’t seen it yet and do not want anything ruined then you may want to check out here.
So, one of the problems I had with this movie was something that should have been a no brainer. The cast. Now I have liked Ryan Reynolds since the “Van Wilder” days and while I think he does have some range people do not give him credit for, I don’t think anyone would defend him as a character actor.
But with Gyllenhaal you could. He is one of my favorite actors and with his name attached to this movie it instantly added some expectations to it. I was curious to see what chemistry he and Reynolds as well as Ferguson could all create and this film from that aspect, was a dud.
Killing off Ryan Reynolds in the first-act was a lame move to me, because while it did give that moment of “oh no they killed off a main character so soon” shock value. It didn’t land because this has been done before. And the result to me was something that felt more like they were using his name to further promote this movie, when really all he has was a glorified cameo.
To me it says the filmmakers knew this story was lacking originality and were banking on star power. Which is done all the time, but in this one it felt like a cheap move, when a little more of Reynolds could have brought some added substance to the story-line.
The dialogue was also very exposition heavy at times and some of the character decisions were out of place given we knew very little about them. So, the dynamics we get like Reynolds character basically ending his life by busting in to help Ariyon Bakare’s character in the lab, come off as generic, and lacking in emotional motivation.
But it was still an entertaining story to watch. It’s just that with the direction the story takes down to the predictable plot twist of the creature getting to earth and the wrong pod landing. Resulted in a decent ending but had this script woven a little more substance in the dialogue, as well as in the character development, and maybe tried a little more misdirection, this could have been a much better movie.