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Life (2017) – Movie Review

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Life (2017) – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

In the wake of Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979, every outer space set horror film has been obviously inspired by that work of cinema. It’s not hard to understand as it provides a solid template on which to mount a potentially suspenseful haunted house movie in space. Life clearly owes a lot to Alien, but also throws in nods to Gravity and Event Horizon. Seeing its influences is slightly more entertaining than the film itself, which relies on basic characters and the strength of its evolving alien creature. There are some inspired bits of horror that show up in Life as well as meandering sequences of characters speaking technobabble.

Life starts promisingly with a one-shot take as the audience glides through the space craft and sees the astronauts at work. The film does the simple job of introducing each character, though none of them truly evolve during the course of the story. They mostly exist as snacks for the alien. The alien proves to be the most intriguing character in how the effects artists slowly evolve him every time we see it. He becomes more and more menacing with each appearance and the fear of the astronauts is understandable. The first casualty is dispatched with in the most horrific way possible, showing Life will not flinch from the gore.

In between the alien playing peek-a-boo are scenes of the crew members calculating and finding a means of escape. These sequences prove somewhat dull, especially since there is little to attach ourselves to the characters. While this would have created yet more comparisons with Alien, there is a Ripley missing onboard. This is not the fault of the actors, who do what is required of them. Ryan Reynolds showcases the most spark, probably helped by him reuniting with his Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on this project. Everyone is mostly directed by Daniel Espinosa to act frightened, when the scenes call for it.

In what seems par for the course in one of these evil alien pictures, some not very bright decisions are made. This can be easily defended as the stress of the situation affecting their better judgment, but it remains a slight distraction at points. The special effects are impressively mounted as the team have treated this like it were a realistic space travel film, rather than just any science-fiction splatter fest. NASA engineers could probably break down the scientifically inaccurate portions, but that shouldn’t take away from the immersive quality of the picture. The cinematography and sets give the proper feeling of being inside the space station. It is surprising this is not being released in 3D. Life could have been the rare film to benefit from a stereoscopic experience.

Life does not try to escape from its Alien knock-off trappings, but there are still moments of inspired creativity hidden beneath the one-note characters and obvious techno-speak. It creates the proper tension at some points, while dragging at others. It becomes merely a wait for when the alien will pop up again to terrorize the crew. Those who shield their eyes at gory sequences probably won’t react well to the events depicted on-screen, while others will have seen a lot of this before. As a B-movie (albeit one produced on a sizable budget by a major studio), it works as a mild diversion at best.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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