Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya
Runtime: 103 min
A six-member crew of the International Space Station (ISI) have the mission of retrieving the first ever evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. However, as the research goes on, this life form starts evolving and proving everyone that it (he? she?) is smarter than everyone thought.
I have a soft spot for claustrophobic thrillers, everything goes down in this tiny space and I can really feel the horror and chaos of the characters involved in the action. It's hard not to connect every movie with aliens on a spaceship to ... Alien. It's one of my all-time favorites and Life did get some inspiration off of it (which is by no means a flaw!).
The premise is interesting enough and actually more "realistic" than other alien movies: they retrieve some evidence and study it, stimulating it in order for it to come to life (no pun intended). Then, as the creature evolves, it wants to defend itself, it wants to survive, so it's not as in Alien where there are spaceships with eggs and all of the beasts just want to kill everyone.
It's a beautifully-shot film. It's really a CGI masterpiece, every scene is shot with great quality, an excellent fluidity of cuts and a fast pacing, but without under-developing the characters (with the exception of one, I'll discuss that below). Besides a very solid cast with excellent performances, there are also well-developed characters: everyone has their own past and reasons to be up there and all of them are explained through extremely needed character-development scenes. This is a hour-and-a-half film, with a pretty fast pacing, so I was positively surprised that I was able to care for every character.
However, Jake Gyllenhaal's character (Dr. David Jordan) was under-developed, which I don't really understand since he's basically the star of this movie (Ryan Reynolds isn't in it as much as I thought he would be). It's not like his performance was below average (actually, he was really great, as always), it's just that his character was the only one that didn't get an emotional past or a good motivation to be in the ISI.
I love the creature, it's another CGI beauty, even if it isn't as scary as it should. Nevertheless, it does prove why Life is rated R ... Which I didn't know as I entered the theater, so I was pretty much satisfied with the gruesome and bloody scenes. Even so, this isn't the best movie ever doing this type of scenes, so it's not like something I've never seen before.
My main issue with this movie is the third act, which kind of messes with the creature's motivations. It goes from "I just want to survive, don't threaten me" to "I'll kill you on sight", which isn't properly a contradiction, but the way they did it at the end didn't connect the last act's tone that well with the previous two acts. Mentioning the end, by the way ... It is predictable, I'll not discuss that. However, by being predictable, doesn't mean it's bad, it can actually be pretty satisfying if done right and I think it was. I really enjoy the ending, it's well-shot enough for me to put aside its predictability.
Life is yet another "alien on a spaceship" movie, but it's able to have a more "realistic" premise. It's beautifully shot, the pacing is fast and the CGI is used masterfully. With a very solid cast and great performances come also well-developed characters, even if Jake Gyllenhaal's (who has another great performance to add to his amazing achievements) didn't get a past or motivations as good as the others. The suspense and horror prove right the "rated R", but it's not like we haven't seen this before (Alien ...). The creature is menacing at times and smart, despite the third act's tone messed its motivations.