A competent homage to classic sci-fi horror with a notable twist.
The 2017 sci-fi flick ‘Life‘ merges the thrills and style of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ with concepts from Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘2001’. Unfortunately, it’s built up around a stellar cast playing mostly two-dimensional characters. Still, quite the ride.
A Mars probe is returning to Earth with soil samples onboard. The six-member Pilgram mission on the International Space Station is charged with securing this precious sample for analysis. Early feedback from the Red Planet indicate the presence of life. Imagine the possibilities.
The opening salvo throws us into this recovery mission gone somewhat awry. Trial by fire introductions reveal this hand-picked crew orbiting Earth aboard a 200 billion dollar science experiment.
The cast includes Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, and Jake Gyllenhaal as a reasonably hospitable group of scientists, engineers, and doctors working towards a common goal.
Herein lies the first problem: a team built upon mutual respect and trust is, well, boring. Some added tension and conflicting motives could only have deepened the struggles that were coming.
Anyhoo, they do find life and it, by genre film mandate, proves to be more than these scientists can handle. The early moments of wonder turned to terror are wonderfully built. The alien hunt in tight quarters is beautifully reminiscent of that immortal scene in ‘Alien’.
And, herein lies problem two: its all been done before. Between the triumphant classical score riffing ‘2001’ to the entire set-up of an alien aboard a spaceship and the eventual, often gruesome deaths that follow there’s little that seems fresh.
Despite solid performances all attempts to bond these characters fall flat. We simply to don’t get enough time with them. So as they start to drop, making those inevitable sacrifices, we don’t really care. Just more chum for the waters.
Director Daniel Espinosa and script-duo Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (‘Zombieland’ and ‘Deadpool’) gives us a grand setting and solid thrills, they just forgot to give us characters we give a sh*t about.
I wanted to love ‘Life‘. Yet, despite a stand-out cast, tense and action packed direction, and effective space horror production values I was left somewhat indifferent. Even the perfunctory twist ending fails to leave a mark. Come for the thrills alone and you won’t be disappointed.