Holy mackerel! Life delivers the goods. Director Daniel Espinosa paints in visual references that acknowledge Ridley Scott’s Alien as well as episodes from The Twilight Zone. However, expect an entertaining box of goodies.
Remaining faithful to the premise behind Life means keeping plot details sketchy. Arguably, half the experience involves a blind jump. Also, I’d advise people to refrain from telling friends and family members what happens. That includes the ending, one of my favourite moments in recent cinematic history.
Meanwhile, there’s an opening sequence that re-imagines the single-take philosophy. I got caught up inside this wandering camera movement enhanced by zero gravity. Such rotation on the lens identifies humanity at every corner, while spaces end up filled with opportunities for imaginative tension.
Half the crunch in survival horror means caring about the people. For example, watch how Ryan Reynolds’ goofball humour soon turns to panic. Crucially, Hiroyuki Sanada embodies the same integrity which made Toshiro Mifune an international star. He was magnetic in The Last Samurai. Meanwhile, Life provides moments of humanity that stem from the core.
Admittedly, Jake Gyllenhaal feels like the last actor I’d cast to play a reluctant hero. While he seems able-bodied, something’s missing. Regardless, his work as David Jordan carries efficiency at every level. Although one or two scenes might feel a little off-key, the purpose behind such interaction allows us to care about what happens next. Notably, Rebecca Ferguson represents a specimen of true depth. To a large extent, she’s the heart guiding this mothership.
Adding to which, Life contains the most effective overlapping dialogue since Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) moaned about their wages in Alien.
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated “R” for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror.)