PLOT: The crew of a space station is faced with an extra-terrestrial threat when they collect a soil sample from Mars containing a rapidly evolving organism hellbent on survival.
REVIEW: If nothing else, LIFE makes one appreciate how good a film the original ALIEN is, as this essentially lifts its blueprint wholesale, but can’t even deliver a single moment of sustained tension. One wonders how such a high-pedigree cast would have even been attracted to such an assembly line production, which, at its best, only makes the audience happy that at least ALIEN: COVENANT isn’t too far away so we can see this type of thing done well.
LIFE, which comes from the writing team behind DEADPOOL, and director Daniel Espinosa of SAFE HOUSE and CHILD 44, begins with your typical single take sequence introducing the crew and the geography of the station, an okay idea although this style is quickly becoming the new shaky cam, and a gimmick that should be retired (this week’s other opener, POWER RANGERS, has a similar scene). It’s incredible that despite being played by the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds, none of the characters stand out, except maybe Ariyon Bakare as the team’s lead scientist, although it doesn’t take long for him to be turned into another stock character making boneheaded decisions.
For a space station staffed with the best and the brightest, everyone seems awfully thick, especially Reynolds, who does his wisecracking thing as the flight engineer, although at least he shows some presence. What’s mind-boggling his how the choosy Gyllenhaal, who’s famous for turning down tentpoles, wound-up in a part that easily could have been played by any anonymous character actor. We get something about him having been in-space longer than anyone else on the team and his reticence to return home after working as a medic in Syria, but this is dropped in order to just have him float around and look intense once the critter, named Calvin, grows into what looks like a space squid. Lest you think Ferguson, following her star-making turn in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION would be this movie’s Ripley, think again. She’s as anonymous as anyone else, and not for a second will you be invested in anyone’s survival.
The only good thing I can say about LIFE is that DP Seamus McGarvey has shot a pretty looking film, and the musical score by Jon Ekstrand works overtime to make us think we’re watching an exciting thriller. The score album is probably scarier than the film, with the kills very tame, and the R-rating likely due to a few f-bombs rather than any good horror set pieces. Despite the lackluster performances, the actors are probably blameless as there’s really no good reason a movie like LIFE, which so blatantly rips off ALIEN, should have been made. It’s not even a fun ALIEN rip-off like a LEVIATHAN, DEEP RISING or DEEP STAR SIX. Helmer Espinosa’s approach is too workmanlike and seemingly uninspired to really give this any sense of fun or style. LIFE is a huge misfire for all involved, and one I’m sure all involved will be keen to forget.
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