"This is some Re-Animator shit." - Rory Adams
The crew of the International Space Station recover a Martian probe which is returning with soil samples. In amongst the dirt the Scientists discover a microscopic life form that appears dormant. Naturally, since they don't watch horror flicks, they start to experiment with differing environments to see if they can re-animater their minute alien lifeform. Of course they succeed and the organism starts to grow, definitely showing a lot of curiosity. We quickly learn about the anatomy of the alien and are not expecting anything good to happen. Before you can say "in space no one can hear you scream", the alien turns decidedly nasty.
Naturally the crew are starting to panic a bit as they find they are fighting for their lives against a hostile organism that starts to show some intelligence. One thing leads to another and the space station is suddenly in a decaying orbit, hey it never rains right. Protocol dictates the organism cannot be allowed to make it back to earth, so how to escape a fatally doomed space station, jettison the organism into deep space, and get their arses back to earth, we know this isn't going to end well for the full crew right. Ready to dial into the latest Alien clone, it might just surprise you, or not.
There's a bunch of things Life does right but unfortunately there are also a heck of a lot of things the movie gets wrong, chief amongst them is reminding us of the infinitely superior Alien. So while the movie is an enjoyable romp into the siege formula it's also not likely to be on many people's top ten lists for the year, which is actually one of the disappointments I had with this one as the premise promises to deliver one hell of a ride to the outer rings of hell. There is definitely a pulse here, but at the best the movie is on life support throughout.
Getting some of the bad out of the way first, and hey what better way to start than the creature design which sucks, then we can catch up with the good gravy Life pours on. The creature reminded me, at its full growth, of an infinitely faster version of the alien face hugger in Prometheus, all starfish like arms. On the bright side it's quick and has this sort of fluid like motion and agility that defies the environment it revives in. On the downside the makers of Life then decide it can also survive in the vacuum of space, do the science yourself there, and completely fail to inject the creature with anything like menace. While a Xenomorph might put some chills down your spine the monster in this movie is more in the realm of fluffy kitten terror, but we are at least talking about a kitten that hasn't been house trained yet. Toward the end of the movie there's some venom being injected into the creature, but by then it's too late and your brain is starting to engage again which defeats the situation the movie forces its characters into. So don't expect the next classic monster kids, this is one that won't imprint on your memory beyond the final credits.
Guess it goes without saying that the science in this haunted house in space epic is not even in the realms of reality, don't get me started. But have to admit it does hold together in the context of the movie, you may not be a believer in the reality of the situation and the developments but the pace will get you past the having to think about things overly much. So unless you are a Scientist, and hence can't let things go, or one of those eternal bores who have to point out every plot issue with every movie then you are going to groove to the beat here.
At least there is some chemistry amongst the above average cast which makes you believe they would be concerned for each other's wellbeing. Once again Ryan Reynolds is making every scene his own, slight spoiler here, for as long as his character is hearty and well. Considering this movie is in a very real sense a siege narrative, you really have to like the characters else the movie is going to fail before it even puts people in harm's way. I'm giving two thumbs up to the Director here; you will care about the characters and be concerned about what is going to happen to them.
While Life certainly has a lot in common with Gothic masterpiece Alien, besides both being set in space, and yes we are talking an alien lifeform that becomes increasingly hostile and deadly, Life pales in comparison when it comes to the settings. Alien was all dark and dingy corridors and rooms of unknown purpose, Life is set on a modern scientific space station that can only throw claustrophobia onto the table. There are no corners for the alien to hide in really, though the Director does attempt the odd surprise jump scene, didn't work, and the alien can survive in the vacuum of space; see previous paragraph on scientific accuracy or lack there off. Surprisingly, or not for most people, horror really doesn't work in a modern scientific setting if hitting the space environment.
Guess by now everyone is aware I wasn't exactly overcome with the sheer terror being delivered by Life in fact I was seriously underwhelmed by the scare tactics in use. If you have ever watched a horror flick before than you are not going to be exactly surprised by any of the plot twists being delivered or by the tension, which is severely lacking. There simply wasn't enough basic terror or a feeling that someone might survive, surprisingly, to have any concern building. I was down to playing the "who is going to die next" game, and was checking email in between deaths to be honest. The general ebb and flow here wasn't enough to keep me entertained.
Surprisingly I'm going to say I would love to see a sequel to this movie, with a much larger budget. Given the ending of the movie we could be into a rocking good time as alien terror lands on terra firma somewhere, China I assume. But the whole focus of that movie would have to be completely different to the one we are presented with in the current movie, and we would need someone directing who understands how horror operates.
This review was a bit rambling, but hey "lifeless" has been overused in describing Life by other Reviewers so was trying to look at a few new aspects. Overall I wasn't bored by the movie but equally I was easily distracted while viewing it, guess this would indicate how uneven things were. The atmosphere might be okay but the tension doesn't ramp up at any stage as we know about everyone is going to be toast by movie's end, and hey who didn't see that plot twist at the end coming up over the horizon. Worth a look on weekly rental, otherwise save your hard earns for something more pressing to view in the dark genre. There's certainly life in this movie, but it's definitely on ventilator.