Monday, March 27, 2017

Movie Review: Life

Turns out we are getting two new Alien films this year! Who knew!

If you are like me, an irredeemable fan of the Alien franchise, then watching Life is a great way to hold you over until Alien: Covenant finally arrives in late May. Life is in fact an "astronauts vs. aliens" film in all its finest form, but strives to defy its conventions in three interesting ways:

This is a fairly "hard SF" film as Hollywood scifi goes. It's near future, involves the International Space Station of the not too distant future, with a multinational crew of actual astronauts in a zero-gee setting. The plot starts with their interception of an automated probe returning from Mars with soil samples. Naturally, one of those soil samples includes evidence of unique cellular life.

"Calvin" as the life form is named, is a voracious little predator once it grows large enough, but it's still portrayed as just a survivor organism. Shades of the original Alien are inevitable, but unlike the original Alien, Life tries to provide interesting discussion on what exactly is happening with Calvin....what makes it both unique and a threat. Calvin's growth rate is entirely realistic as well (well, relatively speaking) compared to the xenomorph of Alien.

Most important of all, and also a throwback to the original Alien, is that Life succeeds because it has genuinely good actors, including even Ryan Reynolds in a role which both plays on his quirky strength as an actor while managing to not feel out of place in a crew of intellectual scientists and engineers. Seriously....with a cast including Reynolds, Ariyon Bakare, Jake Gylenhall and others, Life really does succeed on this combination of taking its setting, subject, and acting seriously.

Literally the only moment where Life felt like it was honoring its genre traditions came toward the end, when (indirect spoiler alert) you have a sequence that was ripped right out of the finest "gotcha moments" of classic horror and SF fiction....but I will say no more, you'll know it when you see it. This final moment was actually rather entertaining because the film, played so straight up to this moment, managed to leave the audience with a fine conclusion (or cliffhanger) of what is either the end of the film in a decidedly non-franchise intended way, or a clear set up for an ongoing series with all of its associated pitfalls. Time will tell!

Anyway, Solid A here. If you are event remotely into this kind of horror/SF film or if you have been wondering if it's even possible for Hollywood to produce a new film that can stand adjacent to Alien, Predator and The Thing....look no further. Life is worth checking out.

Solid A

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