Getting in on this apparent “Spring Blockbuster” craze, Life, directed by Daniel Espinosa and penned by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, is about a six person team of astronauts aboard the International Space Station who retrieve soil samples from Mars and find microscopic cells within – ground-breaking proof of life on other planets. The cells begin to grow at an accelerated rate, developing into a being with intelligence and a survival instinct but then, wouldn’t you know it, it starts to attack the crew and they must prevent it from getting back to Earth.
And if all of that makes you think “Well, I’ve seen that film before”, it’s because you almost definitely have. The story is basic, uninspired and derivative of the likes of Alien and Gravity – put both of those films in a blender and Life will undoubtedly be created. It’s all there: a creature is brought on board, it seems pretty harmless, someone makes a misguided decision, something goes wrong, the creature escapes and starts killing, the crew is picked off one by one, technical problems keep occurring, someone has to go outside and fix something, they can’t let the thing reach Earth, there’s some self-sacrifice and only two are left standing by the end (is it a spoiler if it’s blindingly obvious?).
Life has no real reason to exist and is ultimately a pointless, meandering, by-the-numbers film that has nothing original to bring to the table and simply makes us pine for better films like the aforementioned Alien and Gravity. There is perhaps an attempt to focus on the thing’s survival instinct and how it needs oxygen and water like the rest of us, perhaps encouraging a little sympathy for the alien but this element doesn’t really go anywhere and is soon forgotten, never important enough to begin with. There is also an attempt at something different at the very end but at a certain point, even that part becomes cliched and predictable.
Elsewhere, the visuals are good, though nothing we haven’t seen before, the music is alright and the creature itself is well-designed, not ground-breaking but fine, initially having something of an Abyss vibe about it. There are also no bad performances; Ryan Reynolds essentially shows up to make a few jokes and drop a few f-bombs and Jake Gyllenhaal does the very best that he can, in spite of the fact that he has no good material to work with. In spite of this though, we see none of the much talked about bromance between the two of them; they definitely should have shared more scenes together! Everyone else in the cast is okay but dispensable, pretty much existing to get the audience wondering who’s going to die next. There is an attempt to create some backstories but they’re half-baked and are ultimately uninteresting and meaningless.
The film is also effectively gory when it needs to be and there are plenty of shocking scenes that provoke unease and scares.
And I also have to mention that the film gets off to a slow, boring start and that a potentially thrilling scene involving catching a space shuttle was shot from an interior perspective and as such, offered no thrills at all.