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'Life' Blu-ray Review: Interstellar terror finds a way

June 27, 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?

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 spacesuits, 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.

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 is born on Blu-ray boasting a solid A/V presentation that won't wow viewers at the outset, but nonetheless does justice to the filmmakers' intents. In particular, the movie's color palette is generally dark and gloomy, dominated by shades of green, blue and brown, yet the image is never murky, with details like the actors' spacesuits, not to mention the wires, panels and instrumentation surrounding them, always in sharp focus. Likewise, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix channels the film's moody atmosphere perfectly, soothing with the ever-present hum of the International Space Station one moment, then quickening viewers' pulses the next with the sound of terrified screams and a sudden, explosive loss of air pressure.

Sony's single-disc Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Deleted Scenes (5:49) - Six scenes ("Jordan Examines His Stamp Collection," "Adams Mending His Helmet," "The Tang Breakfast Scene," "Derry in the Gym," "Adam's Body is Placed Inside His Pod" and "Sho and Jordan Talk").
  • Life: In Zero G (6:54) - The cast and crew talk about creating the sensation of weightlessness for the movie.
  • Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin (7:07) - A look at the inspiration for the film's alien creature, its basis in science, and its design and unique characteristics.
  • Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space (7:28) - The cast and crew talk about what makes the film scary, from the claustrophobic nature of the setting, to the nature of the enemy.
  • Astronaut Diaries (3:00) - A montage of video diary entries from the film's characters.

Life is available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as of June 20th, 2017. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French and Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 44 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on March 24th, 2017.

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