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Life – film review

March 28, 2017

LIFE

Despite visceral punchline CG-heavy monster flick is a generic yawn.

Reviewed on Thursday 23rd March 2017

Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds. Running time: 103 mins.

A group of scientists aboard the International Space Station attempt to revive a Martian organism which has lain dormant for millions of years. Once it is revived,     the creature turns hostile and begins killing off the hapless scientists one by one.

About a third of the way into this generic ‘rampaging monster aboard a spaceship’ movie, I began to wonder when the penny was gonna drop; when that one cool idea which got the flm green-lit in the frst place would be revealed. Frustratingly however that one cool idea literally appears in the fnal moments of the flm (although, if one thinks about it – it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense), by which time anyway you may or may not actually give a shit.

Relying on dim-witted contrivances in order to place their characters in peril, writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool, Zombieland) appear to have completely ignored the universal lambasting Damon Lindelof received in his portrayal of scientists as idiots in Prometheus; opting instead for more of the same. Jake Gyllenhaal is undoubtedly a fine actor and he does his best with the material he     has to work with here, but overall the characters are shallow and unconvincing.

Again taking its cue from Prometheus, we have here the usual onslaught of CG blood and squid tentacles invading human bodies – but virtually zero build-up of tension and suspense. And although we are constantly told the consequences for humanity would be dire should the creature be permitted to escape to Earth, it is because we are never made aware (even obliquely) what legitimate threat the beastie actually poses to humanity (Does it reproduce rapidly? Does a nefarious corporation want it for its bio-weapons division?) – that the sense of urgency required to create tension in isolation stories such as these is severely lacking; resulting in our personal disengagement from the outcome.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to this ‘lack of suspense’ issue, however, is that we see way too much of the creature (something Ridley Scott wisely avoided in the original Alien) – both during the attacks and in between. Here we are subjected to endless long distance shots of the creature cart-wheeling through corridors and across the exterior of the station – as well as countless close ups of it (held for far too long) parading itself for the camera – to the point where it very quickly ceases to be scary. Jon Eckstrand’s overbearing score valiantly attempts to compensate, but ultimately comes across as shrilly desperate and annoying.

The visual effects depicting the exterior of the International Space Station are fine (if nothing we haven’t seen before – particularly in Alfonso Cuarón’s highly applauded Gravity). While scenes depicting the cast maneuvering through the station in Zero G do tend to look a little goofy at times, the biggest issue is the creature itself; both in terms of its design and execution. Resembling the squid-like monster Noomi Rapace gives birth to in Prometheus, this thing isn’t even remotely scary or convincing.

Disappointingly bereft of even a decent modicum of originality or suspense, Life is a lazily generic and ultimately superfuous addition to the ‘rampaging monster aboard a spaceship’ genre – of which Ridley Scott’s nearly forty year old Alien is still the uncontested benchmark. I recommend you go watch that film instead.

1.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Megaplex Marion, Adelaide, March 23rd 2017

Greg Moss is a flm school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-f thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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6 Comments
  1. Ouch. I was hoping this would be good. Seems like another film being shot with a problematic/generic script, it never ends well. Such a good cast, too.

    Well, you’ve saved me some money!

    • gregory moss permalink

      I like Jake Gyllenhaal – which is why I gave it any score at all. But I seriously considered asking for my twenty bucks back after it finished – which is something I’ve never done.

      • Nothing worse than a bad movie in a cinema. I remember gritting my teeth through Naked Lunch. I hated that movie.

      • gregory moss permalink

        Yeah – I had pretty much the same reaction to Naked Lunch. And this is coming from a massive Cronenberg fan. The only other movies I felt like walking out on and asking for my money back were Only God Forgives and The Counselor (but as these were both media screenings which I didn’t have to pay for – I couldn’t actually ask for my money back But I sure as hell felt like it).

  2. haha! well that confirms that for me then I won’t be rushing out to watch this one 🙂

    • gregory moss permalink

      Glad to be of service! We really do have to stop encouraging bad movies. 🙂

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