When ‘life’ means certain death

March 27, 2017


Life (MA)

Rating: 2.5 / 5


The International Space Station is truly a global initiative. US astronauts David (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Rory (Ryan Reynolds) join astronauts from the UK Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) and Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson), Japan (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Russia (Olga Dihovichnaya).


Their mission is to find out—once and for all—whether or not there’s life outside Earth. Highly trained and dogged in their determination, each astronaut takes his or her job very seriously, but they also enjoy a camaraderie unique to those who not only share specialised knowledge, but limited oxygen reserves within a tight space.


Having brought back the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars, resident scientist Hugh (Bakare) begins to conduct his research, while the others watch transfixed behind thick, impenetrable glass.


Once he establishes life, it’s difficult not to shout “Get away from the petri dish” at the screen. And this feeling only deepens as the tiny single-celled amoeba-type thing begins to grow rapidly. By the time it’s got Hugh in its tentacled grip, you know that Life will be serving revenge on a plate. (Somehow it doesn’t help that the ‘thing’ has been christened ‘Calvin’.)   


Where Life excels is in its impressive cinematography and depiction of a zero-gravity environment, and director Daniel Espinosa keeps the action well-paced and on track—there’s hardly a lull between Calvin’s ‘rebirth’ and the cliff-hanger finale which sets the scene a little too neatly for a sequel.


Yet Life feels too derivative and a bit of a letdown for those of us who grew up watching Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott’s quintessential nod to extraterristrial life Alien. Of course, every generation needs its own iconic space odyssey, and there were plenty of satisfied gasps in the preview this reviewer attended, so, who knows, Life may well live on.


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Vol. 139, No. 14 // 11 April 2020

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