June 18, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: LIFE (2017)

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya. Directed by Daniel Espinosa. (2017, 104 min).

The obvious inspiration for Life is the original Alien, but that shouldn't dissuade sci-fi/horror fans from checking it out. While Ridley Scott's classic has been liberally ripped-off for decades, this is one of the better ones. And perhaps because my initial expectations weren't quite as lofty, I actually enjoyed Life a bit more than Scott's own recent prequel, Alien Covenant.

The crew onboard the International Space Station thaw out a single dormant cell from a Martian soil sample, which is given the nickname, Calvin. Deciding it prefers life outside the petri dish, it grows exponentially into a nasty, carnivorous, multi-tentacled monster. Calvin also proves to be highly adaptable, extremely intelligent and damn-near unkillable; efforts by the crew to destroy or send it into outer space appear futile.

"This is going right up my nose."
It's a familiar story, but told with a lot of panache with a few unique touches of its own. The entire film takes place in a zero-G environment, including an impressive 10-minute opening scene that introduces each character and takes us around the space station in a single unbroken shot. The film isn't particularly scary, but it does create a lot of tension with its claustrophobic setting and fatalistic tone. Calvin himself is an interesting critter. Though obviously a CGI creation, he's imaginatively rendered and sometimes kinda creepy. None of the characters resonate much, but at least they don't behave stupidly and some of their deaths, while not overtly gory, are stylishly gruesome.

Jake sits on a thumbtack.
Life also throws a climactic curveball which, quite frankly, I didn't see coming, something I always appreciate. The movie isn't gonna make anyone forget Alien, nor is it likely to end up on any year-end top 10 lists. But in the moment, Life is a solid, smart slice of horror sci-fi.

FEATURETTES: "Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space; "Life in Zero G"; "The Art and Reality of Calvin"
"ASTRONAUT DIARIES" - Brief, fictional video segments featuring three of the main characters.

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