I walked into LIFE thinking it would be a GRAVITY like intelligent sci-film with an A-list cast and great visuals. Actually what I got was a movie far closer to ALIEN - sleek, well-acted, but basically a derivative horror film. And as I don't do well with horror films, I left after the first hour.
Still for what it's worth, the movie rolls like this: we're in the International Space Station and the action starts in media res. Ryan Reynolds plays the character he always plays - a wise-ass cocky man who is highly skilled at something and ultimately has a heart of gold. In this case, Ryan/Rory is rescuing a set of soil samples from Mars that a previous astronaut suspected might contains microscopic living cells. Back on board, Rory hands the soil over to scientist Hugh (Ariyon Bakare - JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL) who is delighted to discover a micro-organism that he lovingly tends until it grows to the size of a playful little starfish like creature that could sit in the palm of your hand. Naturally, LIFE is not going to be about how this new alien species and humanity learn to love each other. Very quickly the alien beastie, nicknamed Calvin, goes into hostile survival mode, and all the carefully set-up CDC security measures designed by Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson - THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN). It escapes out of the lab and into the ship, and the rest is an ALIEN style hunter-prey thriller.
Of the cast, the Russian and Japanese crewmembers (Olga Dihovichnaya and Hiroyuki Sanada) are actually among the most compelling - with a deeply ethical arc to play out and the emotional resonance of a family back home respectively. Bakare is also impressive as the biologist who has the most sympathy for Calvin's survival instinct. But Reynolds barely moves beyond self-parody, Ferguson is under-used and Jake Gyllenhaal is under-drawn as the kind of nice, banal, everyman figure. Nonetheless, this film has the makings of something great given its superb cinematography from DP Seamus McGarvey (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS) and elegantly choreographed space sequences from Director Daniel Espinosa (CHILD 44). It's just a shame that the basic story is such a predictably derivative version of a justifiably classic space-horror. For that, we have DEADPOOL writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese to blame.
LIFE has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated R. The movie is on global release everywhere but South Korea, where it opens on April 6th; France, Brazil and Greece where it opens on April 20th and Japan where it opens on July 8th.