Amidst the vast array of films featuring Mars as the primary white whale, Life has become the latest installment of yet another story of human exploration, turned in to horrific drama and tragedy. Before anyone gets any goofy ideas about this film being just another “Alien” film or stranded in space exploration story, Life is a pure white knuckle thriller with all the bells and whistles of a outer space monster movie with plenty of intelligence to become a box office success.
A-listers Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds lead a cast of six, as their characters on the Mars Pilgrim 7 Mission, float sardined aboard a claustrophobic international space station. After retrieving a lander that scooped up Martian soil samples containing a small dormant, gelatinous organism brought back to life which the children of earth eventually name Calvin. Calvin revealed it’s true ugly nature with a violent reaction aiming to kill the entire crew of the space station, as they spring into action to contain it to prevent it from reaching earth, even if they have to sacrifice their lives to do so.
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Life took a familiar concept of a alien hell-bent on killing every human in it’s sight (once pioneered by Alien) while adding a stroke of realism to the narrative. The impressive CGI design of “Calvin” is one of the film’s more unique elements along with the International Space Station’s interior layout setting up the claustrophobic atmosphere.
Life almost suffers from some of the same elements of other sci-fi films set in space without being too obnoxious or overly predictable. Consider it to be more as a combination of other sci-fi films without completely stealing from any one particular story line or falling in to the deadly trap of being too boring or unbelievable. In fact, the film draws upon many elements that allow it the flexibility for it to become a somewhat realistic story line in a not too distant future, as in a year or two from now.
Overall, Life is an above average popcorn, sci-fi horror flick that will at least leave some on the edge of their seat more than once. The film doesn’t exactly try to reinvent the wheel of alien horror films but it certainly adds to the excitement of the genre. The A-list cast provides a useful dose of talent in what would have otherwise felt like a direct to streaming network film. Check your ego at the door and enjoy the film for what it is instead of what you want it to be and try not to view it as a rip-off or a wanna-be sequel (or prequel) to Alien.