It’s very rare that a movie benefits from being both so incredibly smart and so incredibly stupid. But that’s Life.
Set aboard the International Space Station where an ill-defined extra-terrestrial proceeds to terrify Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, amongst others, Life, ahem Alien, is at once everything you love and hate about horror.
Opening with a now almost-mandatory extended single-take ala Gravity depicting an effort to retrieve a space probe containing souvenirs from Mars that turn out to be anything but benign, there are many moments in Life that are utterly transfixing. From the creature adapting a glove in a shockingly unexpected way to each of Life’s merciless death scenes to one of its smarter sequences where the crew use thruster gauges to attempt to trap their tormenter outside the station, there’s a lot to enjoy and a great deal for any sci-fi fan to relish.
Gyllenhaal and Reynolds are reliably good, even if the latter can’t quite shake his Deadpool persona which doesn’t gel too well with the interstellar shocks – though this is as much a misstep by Life’s screenwriters who also penned the Marvel favourite. Ferguson, a vastly underrated performer, thankfully gets one of the meatier roles, thrillingly commanding each of her scenes.
And then things get dumb. Really dumb.
There will be moments where you want to shout at the screen “don’t go down there” or “don’t push that button,” or things that you would otherwise expect earth’s most advanced group of scientists to know, like not to antagonize that really scary-looking Martian that right now isn’t hurting you. Alien, to which it must be said Life is utterly beholden, similarly depicted the crew of an outlying vessel who didn’t always take the most judicious approaches to the threat they were facing. Refusing to follow basic protocols, having no knowledge of them, or Life’s characters just casually deciding to open air-locks that really shouldn’t be opened is just that little less believable when it comes from what are supposed to be a bunch of know-it-alls who would make Sheldon Cooper blush.
Strangely, this doesn’t detract too significantly from Life, a film where the more endearing attempts to replicate the magic of horror favourites that will pique the interest of even the most hardened Ridley Scott fans meets the schlocky highs of the most consumable sci-fi blockbusters. Saving some of the best for last, Life’s final sequence, heralding a distinct change in tone, will place a reluctant smile on the faces of even the greatest sceptics.
Only as frustrating and fun as the number of horror films you’ve watched and which you will find yourself wishing the crew had seen, Life, if almost entirely derivative, should nicely tide you over until Alien: Covenant gets its long-awaited release.
Life is in cinemas now