Film Review – Life

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Alien meets Gravity essentially sums up Life, an incredibly derivative sci-fi horror pic from director Daniel Espinosa that is a lot more satisfying than it really deserves to be. Yet somehow, the film delivers the goods in thrills, scares and gore.

The film is set in an international space station orbiting Earth. A crew of six astronauts are about to take possession of a probe that has just returned from Mars with geological samples. Once they successfully bring the probe on board, the crew discover a microbe amid the dirt – a single celled organism that slowly begins to grow. No points for guessing whether or not they could save themselves a world of pain by jettisoning the thing into outer space before it grows too big…

The horrifying creature the alien becomes is quite an effectively nasty CGI creation (warnings for violence, gore and bad language apply, incidentally). In fact, as Alien rip-offs go, this really is one of the better ones. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay is a lean, mean, stripped down affair that delivers a steady stream of suspense. There are some agreeably unpleasant zero gravity deaths, and the largely one-dimensional characters are nonetheless well played, in keeping with the stripped down B-movie aesthetic. Jake Gyllenhall and Rebecca Ferguson are particularly good, and I also rather liked Ariyon Bakare’s turn as the crippled scientist who eventually gets his own variation on Ian Holm’s famous “I admire its purity” speech from Alien. Needless to say the visual effects are also good, and Espinosa directs with efficiency and verve, particularly in an unbroken pseudo long-take in the opening (apparently it does contain a few hidden cuts).

I still feel I ought to have enjoyed Life less than I did. But for all its lack of originality, it really does hit the right buttons, doing exactly what a film of this kind ought to do. If you’re a fan of sci-fi horror it’s well worth a look.

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