Director: Daniel Espinosa
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya
Plot: Six crew onboard the ISS receives a Mars space probe containing soil samples from the red planet, where they discover a life form which fascinates them at first, but suddenly turn hostile and threatens their lives.
Review: I've heard many people say Life is ripping off Ridley Scott's Alien. Well, here I am to say, that's not entirely true. The whole man vs alien in spaceship thing, perhaps yes. But Life feels much more contained and less ambitious than Alien.
On the ISS, six people; engineer Rory, CDC doctor Miranda, medical doctor David, biologist Hugh, systems engineer Sho and station commander Kat, receive a space probe containing soil samples from Mars. In those samples, Hugh discovers a unique life form unlike anything mankind has ever seen. Then suddenly, the alien, named Calvin by students on Earth, turns hostile and attacks the crew, forcing them to fight for their survival.
The truth is, Life has more in common with Gravity than Alien, especially in terms of look and set design. It may be a monster movie in space, but compared to Alien, it feels more rooted in science, if that makes sense. Calvin the alien, in particular, takes a continuously changing form that increases in size and kinda looks like a giant squid. The methods that the crew use to fight Calvin, as well as their survival steps are based in science and technology, and there are a handful of scenes, both interior and exterior, that reminds me more of Gravity, and even The Martian, than Alien.
The cast perform mostly well overall. Jake Gyllenhaal is the best among them, playing David as a loner who would much rather be on the ISS than back on Earth. Ryan Reynolds provides some brief humor as Rory while Rebecca Ferguson is okay as Miranda. Hiroyuki Sanada gets the token role of character with family back home as Sho, while Ariyon Bakare and Olga Dihovichnaya turn in respectable performances as Hugh and Kat respectively, adding some variety whenever possible.
However, while director Daniel Espinosa manages to create some tension whenever Calvin makes a move on the crew, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's script fails to elevate the crew's emotional connection to the audience. In comparison to say, Danny Boyle's Sunshine, Life's crew have poorly developed backgrounds, save for Gyllenhaal, who manages to elevate David above the others thanks to his talent. Ferguson's Miranda is simply a rule follower while Bakare's crippled Hugh and Sanada's newly minted father Sho are cliched victims for the alien. Reynolds' Rory and Dihovichnaya's Kat are slightly more interesting but don't get enough screen time. Espinosa does give time to the cast to get more personal in between attacks, but they don't really work. In fact, they only slow the film down when it should be adding layers to the film.
The other thing that bothered me is how Calvin seems impervious to whatever plan the crew hatches to fight it. I know most movie monsters are hard to kill, but making it invincible and then use science to explain the reasons makes it somewhat senseless and paper thin. It felt too convenient to me in the end.
But I will give credit to Espinosa and company for giving Life an unconventional ending, which isn't entirely unpredictable, but much better than the common finish most films of the same type go for.
To sum it up, Life is far from perfect, but it provides some solid entertainment overall. It's not as smart as it intends to be, but it's more than decent for a sci-fi horror flick. (7/10)