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'Life' Film Review: In space, no one except this very attractive cast can hear you scream

March 24, 2017Ben MK

When it comes to terrifying journeys through space, it's no question that Ridley Scott set the benchmark 38 years ago with Alien, a movie that, to this day, filmmakers are still trying to top. From Event Horizon, to The Last Days on Mars, to countless other B-movies in between, many have tried, but few have been able to match the sheer night sweat-inducing horror of Scott's seminal sci-fi classic.

Enter screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, best known for breathing some welcome life into the somewhat stifled superhero genre with last year's Deadpool. Now, with Life, the pair sets their sights on the "there's something freakin' creepy in this spaceship that wants to kill us" genre, sending a cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson to the International Space Station, where they must deal with the troubling answer to one of humanity's greatest and most polarizing questions: Does alien life exist?

The answer, as the plot dictates, is vehemently yes. But for the six-person team of astronauts led by Russian cosmonaut Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) and comprised of mission specialist Rory Adams (Reynolds), ISS veteran David Jordan (Gyllenhaal), microbiologist Miranda North (Ferguson), scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) and flight engineer Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada), the more pressing question soon becomes not whether such life exists, but how can they stop it from reaching Earth and wreaking unimaginable havoc?

At the helm of this mission to boldly go where many a space survival horror-thriller has gone before is Safe House director Daniel Espinosa, who grounds the story in a reality-based aesthetic that will be immediately familiar to anyone who's seen Gravity or The Martian. Suffice to say, the filmmakers have succeeded in this regard. And from the ISS itself, to the crew's space suits, to the manner in which the actors move through the station's zero-gravity environment, their attention to detail brings to the movie a layer of authenticity that's seldom seen in the genre.

As for the extraterrestrial threat at the center of the film, it proves to be a far cry from the sinister Xenomorph that menaced Ripley and the ill-fated crew of the USCSS Nostromo, which still reigns as one of the most iconic movie monsters ever conceived. Still, there's something to be said for the nightmarish elegance of this beast — which evolves over the course of the film from a single-celled organism to a multi-tentacled terror — as it proceeds to lay waste to any biological entities that cross its path, often dispatching of its victims in the most gory fashion.

Granted, the result isn't nearly as bold nor as original as what Reese and Wernick were able to cook up for the Merc with a Mouth. Yet, none of that seems to matter, as Life doesn't aspire to shattering cinematic molds or upheaving genre conventions. On the contrary, everyone involved in this project appears to be content just paying homage to the movie's forebearers, which is to say that this unabashedly entertaining creature feature wears its inspirations plainly on its bloodstained sleeve. It is what it is, as they say. And in that respect, Life is good.

Life releases March 24th, 2017 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 43 Mins.

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