Life is an entertaining science-fiction horror movie, with a terrifying monster, solid ambiance, a strong cast and some interesting set pieces.
The plot revolves around a group of astronauts (mainly, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds) who discover alien life that isn’t very friendly. This leads to a game of cat and mouse with the “perfect” organism on a spaceship. Does that remind you of any other movie with an Alien?
Around the halfway mark, the astronauts decide that the alien (now named Calvin) is so dangerous that it can never reach civilization. They then start considering what they may need to sacrifice in order to make sure it goes back into a dormant state. Doesn’t that seem like a certain movie about an alien in the Antarctic? In Life’s defense, it clearly isn’t the first movie to draw inspiration from Alien or The Thing, but the comparisons are so much harder to ignore with Life than most.
Although, I might argue that Life is worth watching because it uses those influences to such great effect; there’s a constant feeling of stress for a huge chunk of the movie, as it changing the feeling of the setting back and forth from the infinitely vast to uncomfortably claustrophobic, which made a few scenes feel even scarier.
I also have to say that Calvin is one of the cooler, and more original, movie monsters in recent memory. It goes through a couple of changes by the end of the movie, and each one is pretty interesting. He starts as a cell, and eventually ends up as something that’s genuinely freaky. Calvin’s size is also worth noting. I normally find it tough to be scared of a monster only half your size, but the way Calvin moves around the ship so quickly and quietly is pretty dang unnerving.
The cast is terrific; Gyllenhaal in particular. It was much easier to empathize with the crew than most horror movies with talent like he and Ferguson creating characters to care for. It’s usually hard for me to bond with characters in horror movies because they…well, die so quickly, but I didn’t have that issue here.
Life’s pacing is another thing I just loved. It was darn near perfect. Once the scares started, which was fairly early in the movie, I didn’t get a chance to relax until the credits rolled. It also had a couple unique surprises in store as well. There was one particularly surprising event that I never even considered possible in space. I can’t say much without spoiling it, but it never even occurred to me that something like this could happen anywhere other than earth; due to the lack of certain resource our planet has an abundance of.
Life is a solid horror film, regardless of its connections to other (and yes, better) movies. It’s monster, characters and tension are enough to make it an entertaining and terrifying flick, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking.