Thursday, 30 March 2017

'Life' Review

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are close to a ground-breaking discovery- the first finding of life beyond Earth. As the crew begin their research on the extraterrestrial life form, it grows and becomes smarter before eventually breaking free from quarantine. The crew must do whatever it takes to stop this creature from reaching Earth.

Looking like a cross between 'The Thing' and of course, 'Alien', 'Life' looked to face a struggle as it looked to create a new sci-fi/horror film in space. With claims that it was just 'Alien' but updated, many have been put off of the film. There is no denying that the trailer may seem similar but it is unfair to brandish this film as being exactly the same due to an alien attacking in outer space. As long as there are new, fresh ideas within this genre, there is no problem. And that is the case with 'Life'. Is it as good as 'Alien'? No. But it is most definitely a competent and effective film within its genre.

'Life' brings a much more realistic look to a horror/sci-fi film as it simply looks at what would happen if we found life beyond Earth and if it wasn't friendly at all. There isn't anything elaborate with the plot. There's no invasion, no real conflict to begin with and not even that much exploration that we get with space movies. Instead, the film focuses on making this film feel claustrophobic by keeping it in tight settings with characters not having loads of room to roam around in. The characters are also moving in zero gravity throughout the whole film, making it even harder for our protagonists to move around. Small details like this really changed the look of the film, giving it its own identity whilst showcasing films that it has been inspired by at the same time. 

The cast although fairly small for a feature length is made up some great talent that really elevates the film. The A-list stars Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal shine with Reynolds bringing great wit, whilst Gyllenhaal is the more focused character who as it at the centre of what is going on. The film also brings great diversity within its cast, none of the actors featured are from the same country with three different continents on show at the same time. The supporting characters such as Hiroyuki Sanada and Ariyon Bakare are excellent in their roles but it is Rebecca Ferguson who yet again steals the show. Ferguson is fantastic throughout the whole film, reacting great with wonder early on and then terror as the film progresses. Ferguson is a star who deserves more roles as she makes everything that she is in instantly better. What I really enjoyed about the characters in this film was that they weren't making stupid decisions that were brainless. This is a trope well known in horror so it was refreshing these incredibly smart characters not act stupidly and try to do the best thing in order for their crew to survive. Whenever someone is vanquished, it's due to the evolution of the creature, not by luck and stupidity from the characters.

As the horror elements go, 'Life' succeeds a creating a horrifying situation. The idea of being in space with something that cannot be controlled is a terrifying situation. For me, being stranded at sea is scary enough but being trapped in space in claustrophobic conditions seems much worse, nevermind with a creature hunting you down to grow stronger. The film does a great job handling the creature - known as Calvin - throughout the film. We see a clear progression with the creature as it not only grows but becomes smarter as the film goes on. This aspect was handled very well as the creature seemed like a true threat that only got more powerful, rather than it just happening all of a sudden. There is time dedicated to showcasing this but it would be safe to say that some of the characters could have done with more focus on them at the same time. The environment allows for an easy eery and creepy setting to be created and director Daniel Espinosa deserves credit for achieving this.

In a film like this, where the backdrop is outer space and there is a CGI main character - the creature Calvin -, the special effects have to be on point. Once again, the film cannot be criticised for how it looks. This is a beautiful looking film with the special effects working very well. The background of outer space is beautiful but yet carries that fear the film looks to bring. The creature also looks unique and frightening as the film progresses. The set design also is fantastic as the film looks to bring that claustrophobic feeling to the film. Without this, the film may not have been nearly as effective.

Lastly, the ending of this film is really great. The intensity is raised to the highest throughout the whole film as the film really pays off. There is great drama and horror that combine incredibly well with pounding music that makes a very effective ending. Some say that it may be predictable but it is an effective and perfect way to end the film. 'Life' isn't a game changing film and yes, you can see inspiration from other films. But there's definitely a lot more to this film than just an 'Alien' rip-off. This film deserves a lot more credit and it's a shame to see an original film like this get an unfair rep. For fans of the genre, 'Life' is worth seeing as it is an effective, tense movie with some great performances. Go into this film with a clear mind and don't look to compare it to other films with similar ideas. It's not a carbon copy and deserves more acknowledgement than that. 

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'Life'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor