Life, directed by Daniel Espinosa, is not original in any way; it is a story and a concept that has been done many times before, and better (‘Alien’ being a prime example). But, despite it not offering anything ground-breaking or different, I did still find myself engaged and rooting for the main characters. I was intrigued by how the film approached the philosophy of the situation, and it gave just enough to make me care for people who I felt I had a decent understanding of. So there are certainly some pros and cons to the film, and getting onto the full review will help clear some of them up (hopefully). So let’s get on with it.
The crew of the International Space Station discover a new life form. Brought back from Mars, they begin to study and try to understand it. But during an effort to stimulate the creature, it reacts in such a way that severely harms a crew member, and now leaves everyone on-board in grave danger as it is now out to kill them all and make sure the preservation of its life is no longer messed with.
It’s very easy to dismiss this film for not being very original and also not approaching its concept in a new way, those critiques are very fair. But for me, the way in which it handled the overall structure, pacing and character development, meant that I was continually engaged and interested to see how things would play out. So while this film doesn’t do anything game changing, I still respect it for the level of effort it put into almost everything else.
Take the first act of the film for example. Life paces itself smartly in the beginning. It sets up very clearly what is happening and who everyone is; including some little inter-personal details between some of the crew members. It’s this well paced establishment of everything that helps to bring you in and connect you to everyone and their very specific situation.
Having that time in the beginning to get to know the individual characters – of which there are a total of 6 – and learn their roles on the space station or what elements of their personality are the primary points that we the audience should focus on and remember, all help for later in the film where there is only one thing propelling the film: survival.
Now the individual development of each character varied from not a lot, to enough that you cared about them. Some of it was a little forced and was obvious when it was set-up for something to come along later, but there were a few outliers; a few little things that slipped past my prediction sensor and resulted in a nice little surprise. There were sadly not a lot of them, but it was still nice when one would get me. But what it all did; what it all helped serve, was the totality of the film and the experience. It was all laid out perfectly to help pull me in and make me care about the people who would soon be fighting for their lives.
And what they were fighting against was a creature that I found to be continually interesting. From what it begins as, to what it grows into, the creature (which was named ‘Calvin’ in the film) was always something that I found to be unsettling and ever so slightly scary. The unmatched power of it and its ability to think and adapt to a situation made it a foe worth of worrying about. And it also helps that some of the first aggressive acts that it does are truly distressing to watch. If you’ve seen the part where it obliterates the hand then you know what I’m talking about – not for the more squeamish of people, that’s for sure.
But there was another part to the creature and its killing rampage throughout the space station and that was the intriguing philosophy that is presented. Calvin is not a creature that is evil for the sake of being evil; it does not come onto the space station with the pre-established intent to murder everyone. It is simply a once dormant life form that wants to protect itself, and it just so happens that the ways in which the crew of the space station attempt to experiment on it makes it feel threatened and thus wants to defend itself. I found the idea of that to be really interesting, especially when you consider the motivation behind other monsters in films similar to this. One of the characters even states that she doesn’t think its evil, but because of how things have played out and people losing their lives, she just instinctively hates it and wants to see it dead. I found myself in a similar frame of mind when watching the film, which is what helped engage me so much with it.
But my next point does then circle me back to the whole argument about the films lack of originality, that being some of the missed opportunities. *No Spoilers* There are a couple of times in the film where it felt like it was going to go in a different direction, or it was setting something up that would have helped it to stand out from all the films it is absolutely going to be compared to. But apart from a few very minor moments, it never goes to a place that could have made things really different. It’s a shame because I was sitting there in the cinema thinking, “Oh if they do that then we’ve got something really interesting on our hands” or “Wait, are they setting up to have this happen, because that could really alter my prediction for how this film is going to end?” Sadly it never did do anything that massively surprised me – other than one or two tiny moments – everything played out just as I expected it to.
Here’s the thing though, I still really enjoyed my time with Life. There was just enough here to keep me interested and engaged. It never felt like it overstayed its welcome, I never felt like it was dragging on. I liked the selection of characters on offer, the philosophy behind the situation they were in was interesting, and it offered some fun, grotesque horror deaths.
So I’m going to recommend Life. It was interesting, it had some memorable horror moments, and I never lost interest in what it was doing. So if you’re looking for an easy film to watch in the cinema that offers up some good scares, then this is the film for you. I hope you enjoy it.
I would absolutely love to know what you thought of the film, so let me know in the comments down below. If you’re interested you can follow my blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. That way you’ll always know when I post something new. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my review and I hope you liked it enough to return.