Review: ‘Life’ Is A Breath-Holding Thriller That’s Out of This World
When Life begins, all we see is the vast sea of infinite space. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, but the ominous musical underscore warns us that impending doom lurks beyond the stars. We are on Mars with the NASA International Space Station (ISS) Pilgrim 7 crew who have been docked on the red planet for months. Their mission at hand is to discover the first proof of life on Mars.
We go inside the spacecraft – a stellar state-of-the-art production design by Nigel Phelps (World War Z) — where six astronauts from different parts of the world are floating around at zero gravity. They are zipping around corners and going about their astronaut business. Each one of this impressive ensemble team of actors also has a personal mission to fulfill. There’s Ryan Reynolds as the snarky spacewalker Roy Adams who suits up to retrieve a biological specimen that was on board a damaged capsule.
Jake Gyllenhaal is the ship’s doctor, David Jordan, who is celebrating his record 473 days in space. He has the most knowledge about this planetary home. From Japan is Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Kendo — the flight engineer — who witnesses the birth of his baby via iPad video. The mission is under the command of Russian cosmonaut Ekaterina Golovkina played by Olga Dihovichnaya. From the U.K. are Ariyon Bakare as the paraplegic biologist Hugh Derry and Rebecca Ferguson as Miranda North — who is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The question they hope to answer, ‘Is there life on Mars?’
Life starts out as a slow burn as Derry tinkers with his new found alien specimen through a sealed incubator wearing impenetrable latex gloves. Playing around with it like it’s his ‘little buddy’ — it grows inside this petri dish. They can now confirm there is life beyond earth. A group of school children christen the creature ‘Calvin’ via satellite from Times Square.
Calvin grows up quickly outsmarting Derry with an escape plan that was unforeseen. That slow burn now over, Sci-fi fans will rejoice in what happens next in breath-holding scenes where you’ll want to scream out loud. Not since Alien has there been a monster so insidiously evil — not to mention — gross. Swedish graffiti artist Jonas “Ziggy” Rassmuson deserves an Oscar for Calvin’s concept and design. In the production notes for the film, Director Daniel Espinosa revealed, “it was inspired by slime mold.”
Espinosa created an environment with claustrophobic elements expertly added to the terror. As an audience, we have nowhere to go and viscerally feel for the astronauts who are entombed inside this death trap. There are really cool moments shot from the point of view of Calvin that are rarely if ever seen before in this genre.
To tell you the gory details would require too many spoiler alerts, but let’s just say what happens in Mars should stay on Mars. Nothing becomes more life affirming than mankind in this scary cautionary tale.
From the looks of it Life will live on in sequels. We’ll just have to wait and see how and when those stars will align.