When I first saw the trailer for Life I must admit I honestly thought it would be a thoroughly shit film – an easy pay check for some of the veteran actors within this sci-fi horror such as Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal. The only reason I have even seen the film is because I was spontaneously invited by my house mates, under the false pretence that we were going to watch the Prometheus sequel Covenant. With my expectations low and sense of pre-emptive disappointment exuding from my soul, I trudged into the screen room loaded with snacks expecting to eat my way through this snore fest. I left that screen room just under two hours later mentally processing whether I was going to have a heart attack or vomit a share bag of Heatwave Doritos onto the cinema’s carpet…
Life is set on the International Space Station orbiting Earth and follows a crew of astronauts after the initial discover of bacterial life on Mars. However after tests are conducted upon the bacteria, now newly named ‘Calvin’, it rapidly evolves into a CGI abomination – a hybrid between what looks like a plant and a blue transparent squid, as it slowly eliminates the crew in a variety of gruesome ways. In terms of plot, the only innovative aspect here is the decision to create an alien threat which sounds like it could do your tax returns. However, whilst the film may follow certain horror clichés such as ‘we’ve lost communication to everyone else…. I’ll go out and sort this problem out myself… save yourself’ etc, Life succeeds in its ability to consistently ratchet up the tension only to be broken by the brutal executions of the creature’s prey (and sadly the overt ‘CGI-ness’ of the alien).
This tension mounts at breakneck speeds within the first quarter of the film, and this can be attributed to the sense of claustrophobia and dread that is born from the setting itself. The ISS is a series of high-tech, clinically white corridors, computer panels and reinforced windows. This is contrasted by deep blue and red hues of artificial lighting and occasionally the shadowy vista of earth against the deep black void of space. The iconography truly is beautifully menacing and leaves the viewer in a state of mental bondage, linked to the fates of the hunted astronauts within this technologically advanced and impersonal maze.
Following this and without going in to too much detail, an early scene involving Calvin builds ‘bone crunching’ levels of dread which will leave you ‘choking’ on your pride. Things go from zero to a hundred real quick. My only advice is don’t eat anything when this scene ‘assaults your face’ as it will leave you feeling nauseous.
Additionally it is worth noting that whilst the majority of the cast may not be well known, all actors involved hold a solid performance throughout. Whilst some are given more personalisation (que the character whose just had a child and has pictures of loved ones on him), this does not deter from our resolve to see them to safety.
Life has been likened to Ridley Scott’s Alien and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity but just critically less accomplished. Whilst this statement may be true to some extent with innovative ideas lacking – Life is a beautifully filmed sci-fi horror worthy of watching and its ending will leave you pondering the overreaching ambition of mankind… or realising you can never eat sushi again.
But enough of my critical opinion, lets to go fellow viewers/house mates:
“I didn’t have time to register the emotional impact of the film because I was too busy shitting myself” – Chris P
“What he said” – Gareth P
Heart palpations guaranteed – 7.5/10
Reviewed by Oliver Leigh