“Life” gives us the pulse-racing space terror of 1979’s “Alien” and the suspense-filled isolation found in John Carpenter’s Antarctic in “The Thing” (1982). Make no mistake, the real star is the alien creature whom we learn as much about as any other character in the film. And that’s the way it should be.
– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF
No Oscars are awarded to movies released in the calendar months of March and April. These two months are reserved for only fodder films–appetizers if you will–for huge blockbuster summer action adventures kicking off on Memorial Day weekend and lasting until “Back to School” commercials swarm us around Labor Day. Right now, most audiences are hitting theaters to check out the Academy Award winners announced last month. So, to find an entertaining and very watchable (and scary) new release just as Spring is upon us, is as refreshing as landing your feet on a shady spot of sand on a hot Florida beach.
“Life” quickly takes us aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and introduces viewers to a six-person crew of astronauts and one menacing lifeform gathered up from the soil of Mars. In a deadly orbital game of Hide and Seek, the alien creature dubbed “Calvin” emerges hell-bent on using humans as its new food source.
A shocking and gruesome horror flick taking place just outside the Earth’s atmosphere, “Life” masterfully accomplishes the two tasks all successful cult-alien space stories must achieve: Create a formidable, smart creature and, secondly, provide us viewers with constant, unrelenting tense, scary moments. It sells this instant alien classic with the genuine feeling of isolation and loneliness in space, using mostly incommunicado with Earth and an orchestrated weightlessness of bodies and liquids throughout the ISS.
Wisely the film’s energy on character development is expended mostly on the elusive alien monster. Yes, the bromance witnessed during December’s Golden Globe awards show between Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”) and Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool”) continues in “Life”. It’s interesting to see these two Hollywood heavyweights costar in roles that so underutilized their overall acting chops. Obviously headlining “Life” for box office appeal, the duo capably bookend the film as a record-setting space junkie and the space station’s Mr. Fix It engineer, respectively.
Beside the familiar Gyllenhaal and Reynolds, is a quartet of faces more remembered by their country’s flag displayed on the spacesuit sleeves than any character names. All six crew members and a stereotypical lab rat pose as alien bait for an extraterrestrial species that adapts and changes to its surroundings at the same rate it multiplies in size.
“Life” gives us the pulse-racing space terror of 1979’s “Alien” and the suspense-filled isolation found in John Carpenter’s Antarctic in “The Thing” (1982). Make no mistake, the real star is the alien creature whom we learn as much about as any other character in the film. And that’s the way it should be. After all, better movies are coming from Gyllenhaal and Reynolds later this year in “Stronger” and “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”. For now, just enjoy “Life”.
“Life” is rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror. Its running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.
© 2017, Patrick. All rights reserved.
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