HOLLYWOOD—I had mixed feelings about the teasers I saw for the movie “Life.” On one spectrum, it comes across as a movie that celebrates life and space, on the other end it comes across as something possibly horrific. Even though I had trepidations, I decided to give the film a shot and gosh and I am so happy I did so. I cannot recall the last time, I found myself on the edge of my seat watching a suspense thriller that had moments where you are screaming at the movie screen and literally gripping the arm rest of your theater seat.
The film stars Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds as members of a space expedition who retrieve a life form from Mars that is not all that it appears to be. Now the one caveat that I have to point out; “Life” does not have the best pacing once things first kick-off, however, be patient, because the establishment of the characters, the setting and this unique lifeform are all well worth the wait, as the madness and chaos begins to unfold aboard the International Space Station.
Like most films, science is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a dangerous thing because our fascination with the unknown causes us to do some stupid things. Cue British biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), who just can’t seem to leave the unknown alone. His curiosity gets the best of him, and as a result he loses an arm while playing with this alien lifeform that is much smarter than it appears. Once it becomes evident the creature wants to escape captivity, Dr. Miranda North (Ferguson) does her best to keep the creature from invading the ship, while protecting the members of the crew, even if it means someone else has to sacrifice their life.
That really happens too much with sci-fi flicks; the idea of containing a life-threatening organism is vital, even if it means lives are lost in the process. However, I can respect her reasoning because would we want the planet to be destroyed at the hands of a lifeform that was never intended to enter our atmosphere? Fighting the brave mission is Dr. David Jordan (Gyllenhaal) and Rory (Reynolds), Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Kat (Olga Dihovichnaya). I will admit Reynolds performance was not that far of a stretch from what we’ve seen from the actor before, delivering comic relief at times when the audience least expects. It works because once the movie gets tense; the laughs are no longer evident.
This should be a testament to director Daniel Espinosa whose ability to craft these heightened moments are so amazing; as spectator you feel as if you’re in space with this crew and fighting this organism to survive. The script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is simple, straightforward and well crafted. When it comes to space movies, if you get too complicated you lose the audience, look at “Prometheus” for those of you who have questions. I will admit I did at times feel as if I was watching a retelling of Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic “Alien.” So be warned the strands of DNA are there, and the creature itself is not as terrifying as the one in that movie. The performances by the actors and actresses involved are great; not Oscar caliber, but they do indeed do the job.
And of course what would this movie be without a twist ending. As a lover of all films delved in suspense and horror, I pegged the twist towards the climax, but others might not see it coming. However, hands down, “Life” is a movie that I’m willing to see a second time in the theater just to be entertained by all the thrills and emotions I experienced the first time. The one valuable lesson the movie teaches audiences is there are somethings in the world that are not to be explored, more importantly; sometimes the unknown needs to stay the unknown.