When the trailer for Life came out I knew this was one movie I had to see. I grew up on Science Fiction movies, in fact my childhood movie list included movies such as The Thing and Aliens. As I grew older I would watch those films and remember the joy of seeing them and the little bit of terror I felt as the big scary monster appeared.
With the advancement of computer graphics, and motion capture. Science Fiction movies needed a new edge in the ever growing world of movies based on terrible Young Adult Books. It needed to recapture the terror that caused audiences to shrink down in their seats when the monster appeared. Or even worse when the monster was just lurking in the background right behind a character.
Life written by Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese is just such a movie. It recaptures the terror of Ridley Scott’s Alien, a movie that changed the Science Fiction genre. The story is set in modern day with an international group of astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The crew consists of Dr. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), an army doctor who loves being in outer space after witnessing the horrors of war. Dr Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), a british doctor and a member of the CDC. Rory “Roy” Adams (Ryan Reynolds) a wise cracking pilot. Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) the station’s engineer. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) a paraplegic scientist and their commander Katerina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya).
They retrieve a capsule containing soil samples from Mars. As they study the samples they find a single cell organism, which is named Calvin. As time progresses Calvin starts to grow and react to stimulus. All seems to be going well; Sho even witnesses the birth of his daughter Mei via video chat. However an accident in the lab seems to cause Calvin to go into a hibernation state. The crew decides to try giving Calvin an electrical shock to wake it back up. As Roy puts it they ‘shock the monkey’ which causes Calvin to attack Hugh and break free of its confinement and run amok aboard the space station.
The terror begins as Calvin starts to kill of crew members in brutal and stomach churching ways. In fact I am still gagging in terror from the first gruesome death scene an hour after watching. The crew now must find a way to kill Calvin before he kills them all and possibly even finds a way to Earth.
Space is a beautiful yet terrifying place. There is no oxygen, there’s no gravity and without heat, a human will freeze to death. Going out into space is also dangerous in itself, one mistake even the smallest can kill an astronaut. This helps increase the fear of the movie being trapped in a place where even going out means a slow painful death.
Gyllenhaal and Reynolds compliment each other perfectly in this film. Reynolds keeps to his method of being a wise cracking extrovert and Gyllenhaal plays the opposite a broken yet introvert. They don’t overpower one another and blend well in this film, it would be interesting to see them in other movies with the same methods perhaps even a buddy cop movie.
For me, while I enjoyed this film, my technical brain and somewhat limited knowledge of how NASA conducts things pulled me a bit away from this movie. There were certain plot holes that cause the little voice in my head to go ‘yeah that’s not right’ or ‘how does Calvin know about…’
Life is a movie of pure thrill and terror on the same level as the Alien series, however the ending will leave you with a pit in your stomach as the closing credits roll. If you are a Science Fiction horror fan itching for some good terror before Alien: Covenant comes out this is one movie you need to see.