The concept of space exploration and aliens residing on other planets easily boosts people’s imagination and creativity. That’s why it’s a recurrent theme in the cinema, coming back every now and then, usually in a couple of movies in a row. In 2016, filmmakers regaled space fanatics with productions such as “Arrival” or “Passengers”, which were relatively light productions, with the former one being a nostalgic story of friendship between humans and aliens and the latter a rather cheesy romance set in space. However, last week Hollywood released a piece that falls into the thriller/horror-like category of si-fi movies. Although, the film is not too brutal and there is no major bloodshed, it certainly triggers the feeling of anxiety and it may even make you jump out of your seat two or three times.
Being compared to the classic of the genre – “Alien” and the Oscar-winning “Gravity”, Daniel Espinosa’s “Life”, is a story about six valiant astronauts who set out on a journey to outer space and discover a living cell – lightheartedly named Calvin, that comes straight from Mars. With the two Hollywood hunks Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal on-board, the whole crew, using their extraordinary knowledge and skills, works hard to figure out what Calvin really is. Yet the initially fruitful cooperation will not last long as the minute doctor Hugh Derry (who is a little obsessed with Calvin by the way) finds out that this uncanny organism is nothing but “muscle and brain”, the inevitable galactic purge begins.
Up to this point in the movie, the crew leads “a normal life” on the spaceship and has a constant online connection with Earth, which conversely to some of the contemporary wi-fi connections, works perfectly well, yet is obviously lost once Calvin starts to rage. For the largest part of the movie, the characters are seen inside the spaceship (we’re back on Earth only 2 times). The skillfully shot capsule scenes evoke a slightly claustrophobic feeling and enable you to imagine that you’re there with the crew, which can be considered a great advantage of the movie.
Apart from cocky Rory Adams (Reynolds), secretive David Jordan (Gyllenhaal) and the disabled Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), the galactic squad consist of the careworn doctor Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), a good-natured Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) of Japanese origin and a dedicated Russian captain Ekaterina Golovkina (Rebecca Ferguson), who at one point heroically sacrifices her life to save the rest of the crew. Although each of them certainly brings something to the plot, it is only Gyllenhaal’s character (apart from Calvin) that evolves as the story unfolds.
Of course it is not a movie in which the actors play the most important characters It is obviously digitally constructed alien Calvin that steals the show. Most si-fi fans would probably agree that the central part of a movie featuring an alien is the moment one can finally see it and judge whether a given interpretation of the extraterrestrial creature is satisfying enough. In this case, it’s not bad. Calvin is first presented as a small cell that looks like the ones you may recall from biology classes. Later, as he eats up one crew member after another, he becomes bigger and bigger and starts to resemble a lotus with long petals that soon enough will look like excessively muscular tentacles. In its final form, Calvin looks like a multi-armed cobra, which can make fairly well-developed facial expressions. Although Calvin doesn’t look very scary, the fact that he is extremely strong and can make a pulp out of one’s intestines in no time, can creep you out a little bit.
Whether, Calvin was meant to look terrifying or not, it is not his looks or even the fact that he kills people in outer space (it’s kind of obvious that being closed in a spaceship with a deadly creature brings no good) that is petrifying. What is most unsettling, disturbing and hair-rising about this movie is the way in which it ends. Surprisingly, as for a Hollywood production the ending may seem strange, but in fact, it is the final scene with the chilling music that gives you goosebumps, that in most part makes “Life” worth-seeing.
See the trailer here: LIFE 2017