Sunday, March 26, 2017

Life – Movie Review: No, This is Not a Venom Prequel Film

There has probably never been a more attractive Astronaut crew on the international space station.

Life: starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, and directed by Daniel Espionosa. Life is about the discovery of an Alien lifeform from Mars. The crew brings the form out of its hibernating or static state from the Red Planet. This then causes the creature to go on a destructive rampage on the International Space Station. You can either view its actions as trying to preserve its own life or maliciously trying to kill all those aboard the station. The movie has a terrifying premise which has been done before, but it’s still done effectively in this film. Life is a fun, tense, and suspenseful ride which is best enjoyed without thinking too hard about some of the leaps in logic it takes towards the end of the film.

The story is simple for the movie. The group of Astronauts on the space station are tasked with retrieving a capsule with soil samples coming back from Mars. An unmanned expedition on the planet found biological material on the surface. The probe picked up the samples and brought it back for the scientist to examine. While researching the cells Bakare’s character, Hugh, gets them to reanimate. Things then go sideways when the life form starts to grow and protect itself. What follows are the dilemmas the Astronauts must face in trying to survive while also protecting Earth from the Martian. The best part of the film’s story is the juxtaposition from hope and wonderment at the start of the movie to sheer terror at the end. The human race found proof of life from another planet, only to then wonder if things may be left better if undiscovered.

The story presents characters who each have different reactions to how they view the Martian based on their job at the station.  All the performances are good with Jake Gyllenhaal a standout as always. If you have seen the trailers for the film you may have some preconceived notions about what is going to happen with him, but the story keeps you guessing, for at least the first part of film. There isn’t much for any character to do in the movie except be terrified of the Alien. I’m surprised they were able to pull in Reynolds and Gyllenhaal together with Ferguson, who is also a star on the rise, for this film. Reynolds plays his usual quippy funny self, and does it well as always. It’s hard not to like the guy. Personally, I would like to see him try a more dramatic role again, like he did in Buried, but these roles seem to be working for him. Ferguson does a good job as well, but again there isn’t much for her character to do other than give some exposition and float away from the creature. She does have some voice over work as well, which might annoy some, but I didn’t think it took away from the story. Bakare’s character, Hugh is probably the most interesting and the one who feels the most for the Martian in the movie. There is a decision he makes towards the end which I don’t think fits the story and it is one of my issues with the latter part of the film.

Enjoyment for Life is going to predicated by how lost you can get in the story. The second half of the film caused issues for me because I didn’t buy into some of the events which happen on the Space Station. Having just a cursory knowledge of NASA or other space agencies processes causes the story falls apart. If you have no knowledge of how things work on the ISS it will help enjoyment for the film. I was taken out of the story by not being able to believe the events unfolding on the station. The actions the characters take towards the last half of the movie also seem unneeded and are used to just propel the narrative instead of making actual sense for true astronauts. Their actions fall into the generic stupid horror movie trope. What makes it worse in this scenario is these people are supposed to be extremely smart scientist who should know better.  Being able to get past these story elements will be the difference in loving the film or just simply liking it.

Overall the film does provide some killer tension and had me on the edge of my seat countless times. Being in the vacuum of space also adds another scary element to the movie, and it is used well. The character design of the Martian is also awesome and as the tension in the story grows so does the scariness of the alien. The deaths in the film are all well done and some truly horrifying. If you get your kicks from watching horror films then Life is a must see. The movie delivers on being a scary suspenseful sci-fi horror, but depending on how much you can get past the logical leaps at the end will affect your overall enjoyment. The film is worth seeing either in the theater or on rental, and I would watch it again if it was on. The horror elements alone would be able to hold my attention for repeat viewings.

Comment and let me know if you have seen Life. If you haven’t let me know your favorite Martian invasion film.

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