By Cody Lamoreau (Bath, Maine)
“In space no one can hear you scream.” “We were better off alone.” Apparently space is still the most deadly place to journey off to in film. That is proven yet further in this weekend’s latest horror film, Life.
Somewhere in the near future a group of scientists, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds, along with three others are on a mission to study mars. These scientists receive samples of soil from the red planet, but inside these samples is a form of life unknown to them. They begin to study this life form and quickly discover they may be in for more trouble than anticipated, when they started this mission.
When the marketing started for Life I was very intrigued. From the trailers it looked like it might be a mixture of Alien meets The Thing. The film is surprisingly almost identical to Alien than I thought it would be. The movie not only has a great deal of suspense and a few really phenomenal characters to get attached to, but also some pretty well written dialogue. Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson definitely share the most screen time and they are great. Ryan Reynolds may not be in the film much, but when he is on screen it is very apparent this film was penned by the same writers of Marvel’s Deadpool. The humor added into the script not only helps bring these characters to life, but allows the audience to fear for them, when they are in grave peril.
One of the key elements to making an effective Horror/Suspenseful themed film, which creators must grab hold of is the tension. I feel that for the first half of Life Director Daniel Espinosa captured it masterfully. The way the film looked was great, the panning and traveling camera shots and editing help elevate the suspense so much that I was gripping on to the arms of my chair for a good fifteen minutes of the film. Not to mention the creature itself looked fantastic and was truly terrifying. This is where my problems begin unfortunately.
For the first portion of the film the scientific nature of these individual’s mission was very grounded in reality and could be understood. After the first 45-50 minutes have passed it felt as though the scientific research was thrown out the window. Interestingly enough the tone and buildup of what made this film start to feel like a more evolutionary predator meets prey horror felt as though it was thrown away as well; for a more cliché drawn out closeted horror film. The evolution of the alien was not explained very well when the second half of the movie came to be. When we first encounter the alien, it is more a multicell plant like life form. As the film progressed it starts to grow at such a rate that it looks like a sharktopus. That is a monster with the head of a shark and the body of an octopus. The science was good enough for the first half, just not what it should have been for the second half.
Now while Gyllenhaal, Ferguson and Reynolds give it their all, there were a few other characters, which I felt could have been taken out of the movie. I don’t want to butcher any names, so I will simply say that there was a Chinese gentleman trying to get home to his family and a young woman who was very new to the mission itself. The character development for these two felt like allowing a teenager to describe their friendships. By an outside view it seems like a great story, but in reality you know it won’t last. It feels the same with these two characters. The actors performances were great, but the development for the characters was very much lacking. Finally the very end of the film was extremely predictable. It was an ending you could see coming 30 minutes into the film itself.
All in all Life is a very enjoyable closeted horror film. It has great performances across the board, a fair amount of great tension and a serviceable story for a film like this. I don’t necessarily feel the need to see the film again, but I am glad that I saw it. If Life proves anything, it’s that the streak of good horror films from 2016 is still alive and continues on in the year of 2017.