Life review: Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds' Space Chase

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


Daniel Espinosa's Life has had a bit of a tough time. 

With its alien-specimen-attacks-entire-space-crew premise, it was impossible for Life to not get compared to established franchises like Alien. In fact almost every review I read about Life prior to seeing it a few weeks ago and post-viewing have likened it to the Sigourney Weaver led blockbusters. 

It probably didn't help that Life struggled to find a way at the box office. Initially slated for a Memorial Day release, Sony moved Life to March likely due to 20th Century's FOX's decision to move Alien: Covenant from August to May. It may have been a good move had March not been so packed with hits like Logan, Beauty and the Beast and Kong: Skull Island. Even with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds working their asses off on the press circuit creating hilarious, viral interviews every day wasn't enough to make the star-studded space flick soar to the top of the box office.

It's tragic partly because Life actually isn't that bad of a movie. Albeit a slight riff on Alien, Life was a really refreshing change from the endless book adaptations and franchise reboots that movie studios have been churning out these past few years. It's such a shame that despite its original storyline, a cast of talented and known actors and excellent cinematography, it got screwed over due to timing of the release.

The talking points in this review contain spoilers of Life's plot including its ending. Read at your discretion and don't say I didn't warn you!

Talking Points
  • That Ending.
Life is undoubtedly full of alien movie cliches, but one thing it pulled off well was the shock ending.

One of the two remaining survivors left of the crew, Gyllenhaal's David manages to lure Calvin into his escape pod with the plan to pilot himself and Calvin into deep space where they will eventually die while Rebecca Ferguson's Miranda takes the other pod and hurtles back to Earth. 

In a surprise twist that probably needed a tad more building and clarification, Miranda's pod hits debris and gets knocked off course. With Calvin climbing all over David and trying to skewer him with his many tentacles, David struggles to send his pod into deep space.

An earthbound pod performs a controlled re-entry and lands safely in water near a group of fishermen. As the curious fishermen approach the pod, it is revealed to be David's and he is now encased in a web-like substance. We cut to a chilling scene of a terrified Miranda screaming as her pod blasts her to a certain and lonely death in deep space due to a navigation system failure.

Back on Earth, miraculously alive David warns the fishermen not to attempt a rescue. Unfortunately for him and likely the human race, the fishermen ignore David's plea and open the pod door as more fishing boats arrive. 

The screen fades to black and rather amusingly Norman Greenbaum's jolly 'Spirit In The Sky' plays as the end credits roll and we're left to contemplate what the heck just happened.

  • Those Deaths
For a movie called Life, there's actually not a lot of life in it. There were gory and gruesome deaths aplenty. 

With him promoting the movie in interviews and his face plastered on the posters, you'd be astonished to learn that Ryan Reynolds is Calvin's first casualty when he enters the Deadpool star's mouth and killing him from the inside.

Next to go was the station's Russian commander Ekaterina who Calvin effectively drowns to death in her own spacesuit by breaking her suit's coolant system during a space walk to fix the antenna. 

The trailers may lead you to believe that Ariyon Bakare's Hugh is the first to go after getting his hand crushed by the alien in a particularly nail-biting scene. However, Calvin has a different plan for Hugh's demise and that involves quite literally sucking the life out of him. 

Life's deaths are pretty harrowing and made me thank my lucky stars that I was never all that good at science, instead deciding to pursue writing and media over an astronomical career. You'll never get me, Calvin! Well, until you reach Earth that is.

  • The Alien. 
The trailers cleverly didn't give much away about Life's extraterrestrial villain. For the most part, Calvin, the name given to the multi-called organism by American school children, did his job. It was genuinely terrifying.

As the movie progresses, Calvin grows stronger, smarter and scarier. He may have resembled a walking wonton through the brief glimpse that we see of him in the trailer, but he rapidly evolves into this large octopus-venus fly trap hybrid. Tentacles - Not. My. Thing. I was on the edge of my seat, watching between my fingers every time one of his legs whipped into view.

Calvin or a walking wonton?

With non-stop action, terrific acting, eerie music and stunning cinematography, Life deserved so much more success. Yes, it had its share of predictability and convenient escapes for David and Miranda who just had to keep opening hatches to check, but it had all the right elements to have had a chance to do better. It's just a shame, but not a surprise that it drew so many Alien comparisons which many seized on to negatively criticise it and the hefty competition at the box office did not do Life any favours.

Release: 24th March 2017
Running time: 1hr 50mins
Dir: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds
Cert: 15

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