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Life Review: It's Alien Meets Gravity

By Ryan Scott — March 21st, 2017

It seems like there are a lot of complaints these days about a lack of original ideas in movies. More so, it seems as though that complaint is often lobbed in the general direction of reboots and sequels. With director Daniel Espinosa's new movie Life, an interesting line is walked. Is this movie technically original? Yes. In that, it is not an actual remake or a reboot. However, it is so heavily influenced by a couple of movies (one in particular) that it sort of blurs the line a bit. That said, a blurry line can't stop this movie from being very entertaining and enjoyable, assuming you like aliens and attractive astronauts in peril.

Sony Pictures' new sci-fi/thriller Life centers on a group of astronauts aboard the international space station who have a very interesting and important mission at hand. A capsule, containing samples from Mars, has malfunctioned and it is up to them to retrieve the capsule, get those samples and study them. Things get interesting when the crew discovers the first prove of actual life beyond Earth hidden among those samples. What starts out as an exciting discovery quickly turns ugly when this simple little alien life form turns out to be a whole lot more complex and dangerous than they initially suspected.

Even though it was fairly clear in the trailers, it needs to be said that Life bares a lot of similarity to Ridley Scott's Alien. A whole lot. Not so much so that it becomes a ripoff, but it is impossible not to notice the heavy influence. There are even a lot of very similar story beats. There is also a good deal of Gravity thrown in there in terms of visual style and spectacle. The blend works out quite well and serves the overall idea that this was meant to be a purely entertaining movie. I don't know if I can say that it is overly deep. I don't know if I can say it is overly existential, but it is entertaining. Sometimes that is enough. In the case of Life, I think it is enough.

Director Daniel Espinosa definitely puts his stamp on this movie. He is good at executing tense action and that is really a lot of what is going on with Life. But really, it is writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick who put their stamp on this thing. If you have seen Zombieland or Deadpool, which are the two movies they are best known for, you know that the duo has a knack for making things entertaining. That is also true of Life, but it is definitely different than those two movies. There are a couple of chuckles here or there, but Life really is a sci-fi movie that is trying to scare and thrill the audience. There isn't a whole lot of tongue and cheek going on here. That said, it is still very definitively their style of writing and that is probably the best part about it.

The cast for this movie is made up of some folks like Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal who are usually the lead or co-lead in their respective movies. Life is most definitely an ensemble piece and they play into that very well. Nobody is selfish with the screen and the cast is very well balanced. Everyone serves their purpose very well and they all have their moments. It truly is a group effort and it helps that there are a lot of talented people on board this space station. Rebecca Ferguson, who many of us discovered in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, probably deserves a special shoutout for adding to her awesomeness factor here.

Life may not be the most original movie out there, but it also doesn't need to be. This isn't what I would call "thinking man's" sci-fi. It is just entertaining and as long as that is enough for you, this movie will probably be worth your money. If you are desperate for something more along the lines of a District 9, for example, Life may not be what you are looking for. I would argue that the trailers have done a good job of selling this movie (even if they did give away a bit too much). So if the movie has grabbed your interest based on the trailers you should be satisfied with what the creative team managed to deliver; a scary space creature and people trying not to get killed by said space creature.

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