Life – Movie Review – Another Verdict


Life is from Swedish director Daniel Espinosa and comes off the back of his grizzly 2015 crime thriller Child 44. Espinosa has directed some of the finest actors in the game and Life is no exception, with Jake Gyllenhall, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson at his disposal; or should that be at the disposal of a nasty organism unearthed on Mars nicknamed “Calvin” in this Sci-fi/Horror set on a space station orbiting Earth.

Well the trailers were fucking hot, So is it any good?

Life follows a small team of astronauts who are excited about an unmanned probe returning from Mars fetching back a soil sample from the planet’s surface. The sample happens to contain a living organism, the first indisputable proof of “life” beyond Earth. The organism initially seems to be receptive up until it enters a state of comatose, no thanks to a lapse of concentration through Aryon Bakare who sets off all kinds of alarms and lights. The crew try to revive the specimen through electrically shocking it, and it’s not long before the little fella wakes up. In a bad mood.

Growing in size and seemingly indestructible, it’s Calvin vs the crew in a game of a cat and mouse in space.

So on paper, yeah, Life seems by-the-numbers and formulaic. And unfortunately that’s how it plays out. Much has been made of how it’s ripped off this and owes huge gratitude to that, so I don’t want to disservice it any further by comparing Life to other films, because that’s been well publicised already. Reviewing Life on its own terms doesn’t make it any less disappointing though.

Frustratingly if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the film peak. The scene in which Aryon Bakare is examining the creature with a little electrical prod is both tense and dramatic. Up until this point, the little chap who earns the name Calvin from a school student back on Earth (the film depicts this as monumental event televised all over the world which is a neat touch), is not hostile and displays an ever-growing intelligence and comradery based on its interactions with its human counterparts. It’s only when the astronauts inadvertently threaten the creature it bites back. When Bakare’s hand is snapped by Calvin, Ryan Reynolds rushes in with a flamethrower and tries to fry it. The alien shows a formidable resilience and a particular liking for crevices and small hiding places. It’s tense. You can feel the sweat running down Jake Gyllenhall’s face as he’s floating (zero gravity) behind a pane of glass watching Reynolds face off against the creature in quarantine.

What follows is a sharp decline in suspense and thrills as my pulse resumed normality. The characters aren’t memorable hence why I’ve been referring to them by the actor’s names, the dialogue gets totally uninteresting and clunky at times (Gyllenhall starts to read from a children’s book at one point) and after a rip-roaring introduction Calvin’s indestructible nature conflicts with the film’s admirable effort to stay grounded in logic and realism.

As for the “twist” ending, does it even constitute as a twist if you legitimately saw it coming as soon as Gyllenhall mentioned “two escape pods” to Rebecca Ferguson? Maybe the art of the twist has been lost on me cause of M. Night Shyamalan, goddamnit.

Life isn’t without merit and is competently made. But when an alien movie set in space veers into dull territory specifically in the middle and third act, I can’t commend it as must-see at the cinema. You can check out my fellow reviewer Rochelle’s thoughts here.

LIFE is currently out worldwide in theatres.