(This post is about the new movie Life, not life in general)
We have a new space film! A space film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Ariyon Bakare, Hiroyuki Sanada & Olga Dihovichnaya; directed by Daniel Espinosa & written by Rhett Reece & Paul Wernick; the duo whose credits include Deadpool, Zombieland & surprisingly, my favourite childhood film, Dinosaur.
It’s about a group of six astronauts on a space station studying samples collected from Mars – one particularly, that proves life on the red planet. It’s a bunch of humans studying an alien life trapped in the middle of space – you know it won’t go well.
Dr David Jordan is the senior medical officer on board, & is about to beat the record for most consecutive days in space. He has no shame in preferring space to their home planet Earth, appalled by how cruel everyone is to each other (so deep). He’s an ex-war medic & quiet but passionate, & of course Jake Gyllenhaal is amazing.
Dr Miranda North is the mission’s Quarantine Officer – the brain behind protecting everyone on the ship & on earth. She does care about her crew but ultimately knows it is her responsibility to see them as casualties to protect earth if need be, & that’s why she’s a little harder to relate to than other characters. She is really cool though, more sensible & level headed than others & one of the few you won’t actually be screaming at the screen to stop being so stupid. Rebecca Ferguson is again proving herself as one to watch.
Rory Adams is the ship’s engineer. He’s the type of role that Ryan Reynolds plays so well – witty, brave & caring – always the one to be either cracking a joke or trying to save someone’s life. It is worth mentioning however that although he is one of the main promotion faces of the film, he is only a supporting role.
I’m not naming names here, but a lot of blame should fall on biologist Hugh Derry’s shoulders. He’s an expert in exobiology & gets way too close to the experiment right from the start – & also comes up with like the worst idea ever which you can see in the four minute clip released to promote the film. Ariyon Bakare does play him very well though – he’s a paraplegic who’s in love with the freedom the loss of gravity in space gives him.
Ekaterina Golovkina is the mission Commander, & a badass one at that. She cares deeply about her crew & the mission, & knows what has to be done in order to protect both. I haven’t seen Olga Dihovichnaya in anything else but there really is something about her that’s just really entrancing to watch – she reminds me a lot of Star Trek’s Seven of Nine actually.
Finally we have Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada), pilot & system engineer extraordinaire. He’s just become a father & is desperate to get home to meet his new daughter, but is passionate & knowledgeable about his job.
(Also hey look another diverse cast in a Hollywood film woo!)
And I guess the alien is as much a character as anyone else. The so called Martian is named Calvin by a elementary school in America, & he is really good at causing a lot of damage very fast. It’s ever evolving & ever learning, which is probably what makes it actually scary.
Lets face it – the story is totally unoriginal. It’s a bunch of sci-fi/ horror film sliced together into something kind of new, but it’s pulled off by the great cast. It’s heavily, heavily inspired by Alien, just with Jake Gyllenhaal & Rebecca Ferguson instead of Dallas & Ripley. You know what’s going to happen, you really do, but it is so tense that you are totally transfixed regardless, & you don’t really mind. It’s fun, with a slow build from light hearted comedy to death & terror & gore. It will have you shouting at the screen, & trying to guess what’s going to happen next (which we pretty successfully managed to do).
It manages to avoid overpowering cheesiness or anything eye rolling-ly bad for the most part, except for a couple of things that did really bug me; why did the ship (that wasn’t planning on returning to earth anytime soon) have so little fuel? Why did the Commander put herself so unnecessarily at risk & abandon her team? And most of all, if you defibrillate someone’s heart THREE TIMES when THEIR HEART WAS STILL BEATING HE WOULD NOT BE AWAKE & CHATTING 5 MINUTES LATER.
It’s shot really well too. The opening sequence is really impressive. It’s a pretty long scene, but all done in one continuous sweeping shot that immediately pulls you right into the setting & right into the story alongside the characters.
It plays with the anti-gravity really well too; in some shots, someone will be upside down talking to another who’s horizontal which I thought was really cool. It also really plays on the gore in this way – blood & guts can’t really splatter like in your typical horror, & instead bubble out & fill the space. Gross.
The special effects are impressive. It’s actually difficult to remember that this wasn’t actually filmed on location in space, & that there wasn’t a real alien stirring up shit. The design of the ever-evolving alien Calvin is consistent enough that you can tell it’s the same creature whilst also changing enough for it to be scary. It starts off like a little plant bud, innocently interacting with the humans until it’s triggered to become more vicious, & then for the rest of the film all it does is continue to grow at an alarming rate & grow tentacles & fangs & a sort-of face even. It’s a little bit like a starfish, then a squid, then a lizard then a dragon.
The score plays a bit part in what makes the film so consistently tense, in your classic trope of heart racing music & silences before jump scares etc. It also somewhat bizarrely plays Spirit in the Sky for a short moment as the credits being to roll which I didn’t really get but did sing along to anyways.
It was fun. It was tense without being overpowering & fun without being too cheesy. Without the decent shooting style & the excellent cast it had potential to be bad, but it’s pulled off to be actually enjoyable in the moment. But I think the real message here is don’t fuck with aliens.
Life is in cinemas now.