Dan's Review: Final act of "Life" is D.O.A.
Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal in Life - © 2017 Sony/Columbia Pictures.
Rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, Naoko Mori, Alexander Nguyen, Hiu Woong-Sin.
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa.
In 1979, Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon introduced audiences to a whole new movie category: “Science Fiction Horror,” or more specifically, “Outer Space Horror.” Since Alien (where “no one can hear you scream”), we’ve seen a lot of movies that feature gory ways to die in realms beyond Earth, including several “Alien” sequels (this summer’s Alien Covenant will be the eighth film in the franchise, with a ninth one in the works). The latest “space horror” movie to hit screens is Life, the story of a killer organism on board an international space station in Earth’s orbit.
Jake Gyllenhaal leads the ensemble cast playing Dr. David Jordan the station’s physician. Joining him are mission commander Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada), Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) and Kat Golovinka (Olga Dihovichnaya). The crew’s mission is to retrieve a capsule headed to Earth from Mars that contains organic samples from the planet. Once the samples are brought on board, Hugh begins to conduct experiments in the lab. He soon discovers a living organism (named “Calvin” by elementary students watching the discovery broadcast back on Earth) that seems harmless at first, but eventually grows into something more sinister. Hugh is attacked, and Rory tries to rescue him. The space station loses communication with mission control, and the crew must try to survive Calvin’s attacks as the alien life form grows larger and more deadly (the creature eventually grows into something resembling a squid/butterfly hybrid). People die, and the few remaining crewmembers must make sacrifices to prevent Calvin from crashing the space station on Earth, where the adaptable alien will more than likely wipe out all life as we know it.
Life is a very scary, creepy (gory as well) film that works well as a horror movie; not quite as good as the original Ridley Scott/James Cameron Alien origin films, but adequate enough to keep you on edge. The ensemble cast is sufficiently talented and work well to create tension and camaraderie, to the degree that you genuinely care about their characters’ fate. Everything works just fine – until the movie’s bait-and-switch finale, which will probably leave audiences a little disappointed, despite the air of a “sequel” lingering as the end credits roll.
Life could have been so much better with a more clever and fulfilling ending, even if it could only rise to the level as several other similar “Space Horror” movies.