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The subgenre of ‘throwing an unknown yet scary foreign body into an established group in close quarters and seeing what they do' continues to see a trickle of contributions to it every year. Whether it's been Ridley Scott's contributions to it or not, a good portion of those films have occurred in space or on another planet. Life is the latest one to toss its hat into the ring, for better or worse.
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool) and directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House), Life finds itself on the International Space Station for most of the film. A small faceless, shapeless creature is found from one of the sample probes that returns from Mars, but the overarching point is that it was a creature. On Mars. Needless to say the ISS crew, which includes a Russian mission commander Ekaterina (Olga Dihovichnaya) and an American pilot David (Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler), engineer Hugh (fellow Deadpool alum Ryan Reynolds), and British quarantine officer Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson, Deadpool) try to figure out what to do with this historic discovery.
Trying to pull together some thoughts about Life was a little more difficult than say, trying to pull together some thoughts about life. One is about the reactions to forces outside of one's control and making difficult decisions and sacrifices, sometimes for a larger purpose. The other is a dopey experience with little in original thought or execution. For as bad and crappy as Life can be, Life is worse because the meaning not only isn't there, the promise of it doesn't even show up.
Basically, new creature is mysterious when the crew first encounter it, and when they report back to Earth, everyone is aflutter over it, to the point where it's subjected to a naming contest amongst thousands of elementary schools. When things take a turn as things ultimately do when you're in a space station, or a remote part of Iceland, or wherever, this bunch do basically the exact same machinations that other films before it have done, the differences being the creature and that Reynolds and Gyllenhaal are the ones doing said machinations I guess.
As for the two actors, they are fine in their roles, with Gyllenhaal being a little more emotional and shouty amongst the pair, for reasons you'll see as the film goes on. Ferguson is average in her role, though I did appreciate Dihovichnaya, whose work I was not aware of before and I look forward to seeing more of her. They are all okay, then we have the end of the film, something that "…you will never see coming.", according to the box art. So this blurb would presumably spoil the ending of the film for you as you see it. And as you see it, you are bracing yourself for this ending, and when it happens, you (well, I) get angered from it. Not because it's a swerve, but that it's arbitrary and serves no other purpose other than auteur smugness I suppose. It's a low-rent ending for a highish caliber ensemble and deserved better than this.
Knowing little about Life coming into it, I was curious and even hopeful that a good film laid underneath it. But it's really just a bait and switch of sorts, propping itself up against the efforts of more polished similar films which you should watch instead of this one. I'm not asking anyone to reinvent the wheel on a genre whose formula is tried and true, but if you're going to go for it, go for it.The Blu-ray:
In 2.39:1 and using the AVC codec, you would think the Life Blu-ray would sport razor sharp and consistent black levels and copious amounts of image detail despite the computer graphics, but that's not the case all the time. The darkness of space looks the part, though there are a couple of moments of crushing, and some of the visual effects shots appear to have a pixilation issue or two (like when one of the portions of the ISS crashes into itself). It wasn't bad viewing material, but it certainly could have been better.The Sound:
Where the film makes its hay is in the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless surround track, which is superb. Starting early on, from the debris hitting the probe (and resonating in all of the channels), the film has a remarkable immersion level. An early incident in the ISS has audible warnings go off in the rear channels and then pan as the characters float from one portion of the craft to another. Dialogue is well-balanced in the front of the theater and requires no user adjustment, and the sound design helps convey the eeriness and scary nature of the subject nicely. One of the better soundtracks I've heard on a disc this year.Extras:
Most of what is here is pretty topical, six deleted scenes (5:49) do not add anything to the film, "In Zero G" (6:54) examines the challenges of space stuff (spoiler alert: wire work is involved), while "Creating a Thriller in Space" (7:28) looks at the production and set designs and some more space work. "The Art and Reality of Calvin" (7:07) looks at the cute and deadly creature while "Astronaut Diaries" (3:00) are in character confessional-type pieces. Some Sony trailers and a digital copy of the film complete things.Final Thoughts:
I guess when it comes to video and I have some time, I'll watch Alien Covenant or something because on the surface, Life appears to want to be that film, but has no aspirations other than to come close to an Alien film, so it can say that it did. Blech. Technically, the audio on the film is excellent, which is the best I can say about the release, honestly. Go do what I'm about to do or heck, just watch Alien and avoid the others.