Monday, March 27, 2017

[Review] Life

When a movie is titled Life, it seems like it has a lot to live up to. It either has to be encompassing and grand, or ultra-specific. Director Daniel Espinosa's Life actually focuses in on the prospect of extraterrestrial life. And yeah, it's similar to Alien, but it's still surprisingly good sci-fi horror.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya are the crew aboard the International Space Station, studying a specimen from Mars. After some careful probing, sure enough, they learn that it's living. It's alive! So much so that they dub it "Calvin". Calvin is cute and friendly at first, but eventually it turns aggressive. And big. And scary.

Life carries a major sense of gravitas and momentum, as it opens with the illusion of an extra long take, tracking the astronauts as they weave through the spacecraft corridors and utilize the highly advanced equipment. It's visually stimulating stuff, from the majestic views of Earth to the futuristic technology at-hand. Sometimes the film even launches into some disturbing gross-out horror. In fact, this thing packs thrills that are significantly more tense than what the trailer cuts displayed. The narrative grips hold, and never really lets up, bringing on plot turns that consistently up the ante.

The cast is impressively convincing in this setting, but the show-stealer is Calvin itself--a solidly rendered, translucent CGI octopus-like creature that increasingly evolves and needs to feast on other life in order to survive. Once its slithery self lets loose, the paranoia on board skyrockets, creating an unsettling atmosphere that's primed for some sweaty chills.

As opposed to last year's big alien encounter Arrival (hold your spacesuits, I'm not suggesting they're on the same level), this film takes a much more pessimistic, cautionary, monster movie approach--posing the question: Are we sure we even want to discover what other types of life are out there?

( 7.5/10 )

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