There were two options on Wednesday night for media screenings, POWER RANGERS and LIFE. I was already RSVPd to LIFE but couldn’t get anyone to see power rangers so I changed to that one and Kernel John came out of the shadows to resume his reviewing post. I am not disappointed, I quite enjoyed POWER RANGERS and am looking forward to seeing LIFE in my own time. Seriously, who doesn’t like a space horror, and would could complain with Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson as out leads. I am sold on that cast alone! LIFE is out now in Australia cinemas from Sony Pictures Australia. It is rated MA15+ and runs for 103mins. Enjoy John’s thoughts…….all the best…….JK.
The sheer variety of organisms on our blue marble is truly staggering. Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old. Some theories propose that life in some form may have been around for as long as 4.4 billion years. In that time, it is estimated that more than 99% of all species to have ever existed have since become extinct. And yet, life seemingly thrives in every single corner of our planet.
Considering the unmitigated tenacity of life on Earth, questions have been asked many times about its existence elsewhere in the Universe. Enter Hollywood, and director Daniel Espinosa (SAFE HOUSE) to answer that very question in the latest sci-fi horror, LIFE.
Set in the not too distant future, the Mars Pilgrim 7 Mission probe is completing its long journey back to Earth with a cargo hold of precious soil samples from the Martian surface. Captured in Earth’s orbit by a team of six specialists aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the group quickly get to work analysing the extra-terrestrial dirt for signs of life. When a microscopic, single celled organism is discovered among the deposits, the whole planet losses their collective minds in celebration of the fact that we are not alone in the Universe.
Named Calvin by the children of Earth, the organism begins to rapidly grow and replicate under the ambitious and single-minded attention of the lead scientist. It is discovered that each of Calvin’s cells serve multiple purposes. They are each fibrous, photoreceptive and neurological. The creature is quite literally, and somewhat terrifyingly, all muscle, eye and brain. When a failure in quarantine procedures allows Calvin to break free of his containment, killing one crew member and seriously injuring another, the surviving astronauts must scramble to save themselves. Oh yeah, all while desperately attempting to stop the alien from reaching Earth’s surface and threatening the entire planet.
LIFE stars a number of actors, each of who receive a decent amount of screen time. There is no real “lead” per se, though if any individual was to take that title it would be Jake Gyllenhaal (NIGHTCRAWLER). Alongside Jake are actors Rebecca Ferguson (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION), Ryan Reynolds (DEADPOOL), Hiroyuki Sanada (THE WOLVERINE), Ariyon Bakare (JUPITER ASCENDING) and Olga Dihovichnaya. Each cast member plays a specific role on the team, such as engineer, pilot, mission lead, and so on, and they each form an integral part of the functioning whole.
The interaction between the characters is fantastic. They all have a brief backstory of sorts that plays a small, but vital role in giving depth to each of the personas. There is real comradery there, indicating a certain amount of history between the characters. It made everything all that more natural and real. Thanks to these intimate moments, when the proverbial alien waste matter starts to hit the atmospheric recycling unit, the fear and desperation each member shows for the safety of the others is truly believable. Top notch acting all around from everyone involved.
“And I’m floating in a most peculiar way”
The special effects of LIFE are also wonderfully done. Hollywood seems to have really nailed the whole zero-g environment. Inane objects drift lazily by and interact with their surroundings in a realistic manner. The crew members, likewise, float from module to module, with their innate inertial continuing to play a role even after the astronaut has gripped a handhold to stop themselves. Globules of water and blood glide distressingly through the air, while the alien itself moves with terror inducing fluidity that had me jump in my seat a number of times. Speaking of our beasty…
IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM:
But thankfully, in a pressurised, atmosphere filled environment like the ISS, everyone can hear you scream, in the most unholy of marriages between physics and horror. Yay?! Calvin is a terrifying creature to behold, who seems perfectly at ease in the zero-g environment of space. This thing is fast, agile, incredibly strong, and growing bigger by the minute as it consumes our desperate crew members. It is also smart, learning at an exponential rate, consummate with its increasing size. From a single cell that has lain dormant on a dead world for millions of years, to a winged spawn of nightmare that can use tools, seemingly survive in the vacuum of space, and is nigh impossible to kill. This alien is frightening and does a very good job of conveying horror to the audience.
As it grows it appears to go through several metamorphoses. Moving from a casual blob, to having several nondescript appendages, to complex manipulators, through to eventually a recognisable head, eyes and mouth. It was like watching Darwin’s theories unfold in rapid progression, rather than the more standard geological ages. This is made all the more disturbing when one considers the evolutionary leaps and bounds it has made in relation to the relatively small amount of “food” available to it. If Calvin was ever able to make it to Earth, with its multitude forms of biomass, nothing would be able to stop it, adding yet more tension to the film.
Ultimately, the story of LIFE is one told a thousand times before. There is nothing new here to tickle the imagination. Comparisons to Scott’s ALIEN are easily made, though LIFE does not stand shoulder to shoulder with that classic. There is no solid Ripley character to take charge of the scene and get behind, nor are there any great and suspenseful chases and battles. There is, however, a great deal of opening and closing of hatches to try and trap the creature, in an almost endless cycle of tag, which became a little repetitive after a while.
Rather, while the plot is simplistic and old hat, a more apt comparison would be to GRAVITY, with the film’s focus on space, zero-g, and humanity’s perseverance and will to live in the face of adversity. The creature is scary, the acting fantastic, and the special effects superb. Check out LIFE for a casual fright on a stormy evening, just do not expect it to be on par with film’s it so evidently emulates.
A lifelong lover of the silver screen, Kernel John strives to engage and entertain his audience through the shameless use of humour in his reviews, even when it probably isn’t warranted. When not musing for Salty, you can often find John bouncing between his extreme states of either puppy watching down by the beach, or reflecting on the deepest mysteries of the Universe.
** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.