By Molly Briggs ’19, Contributor
WARNING: LIFE SPOILERS (except for the ending)
Life, directed by Daniel Espinosa and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, is a ordinarily typical and un-suspenseful movie. The main premise is: The International Space Station crew receives a probe from Mars with a soil sample that contains evidence of extraterrestrial life. This is supposed to be the first life found on Mars, giving the movie its name (which is a little basic.) The alien grows into a multi-cellular organism, which at first is benign but quickly turns hostile. They name it “Calvin” after a school, which is a very generic name for an alien. For the rest of the movie, they always refer to the alien as Calvin, making it almost seem like it was just another member of the crew that they were going through a bit of a rough patch with. The alien was an almost starfish-like blob with tentacles coming off it that could grip onto anything, which was at least realistic, considering it was an alien from Mars, after all. However, once the alien turned aggressive and began to feed on blood, making it bigger and stronger, Calvin eventually developed a sort of face, which I’m sure was supposed to give the alien a menacing look, but it came off as cheesy and fake.
The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. David Jordan, a socially awkward astronaut who claims he likes space better than Earth. Although he is considered a main character, he only had somewhere around six lines in the first half of the movie, and it wasn’t until the other crew members began to die that he became the center of attention. Rebecca Ferguson played Dr. Miranda North, the practical quarantine officer who knew that she had to do whatever it took to keep Calvin from getting to Earth, even if it meant sacrificing the crew. Ariyon Bakare was Hugh Derry, the biologist who, once Calvin got loose, was probably more trouble than he was worth. Sho Murakami, a loveable new father and pilot of the ship, was played by Hiroyuki Sanada, the only lasting likable character in the entire movie. Olga Dihovichnaya played Katerina Golovkina, the commander of the crew who would’ve been interchangeable with Rebecca Ferguson, if not for her Russian accent. And of course, there was Ryan Reynolds as Rory “Roy” Adams, the funny mechanic with a ‘colorful’ vocabulary. However, just as I was beginning to like his character, Ryan Reynolds was the first one to be killed; it happened in the first fifteen to twenty minutes. Many people came to see the movie solely because of Ryan Reynolds, and they advertised Reynolds as one of the main characters, but it was very disappointing how little screen time he actually had.
The movie overall was cheesy and disappointing, with much less suspense than I had anticipated. It’s supposed to be a horror movie, but it wasn’t scary. Mostly, it was predictable and boring, and there were some moments that were so badly written that I had to cover my eyes. The cringiest part of the movie was when there were only two people left on the ship, who, thinking they were going to die, found a Goodnight Moon book that was previously given as a gift to Sho Murakami for his baby back on Earth. They looked out at the stars and read it out loud, which was supposed to be a dramatic and sad moment but turned out to be extremely cheesy. Imagine two astronauts staring out into space, and one melancholily saying “Goodnight Moon,” then turning the page and saying “Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.” I had to resist the urge to laugh out loud.
Life basically had exact same concept as the older film Alien (1979), a movie that I personally thought was much better and had a lot more suspense. In this movie, the crew of a commercial starship encounters an alien ship, in which several alien eggs reside. And of course, one of them gets onto the ship. From there on, it’s the same story as Life, only it had me on the edge of my seat, with lots of suspense and a respectable number of jump-scares.
The only good part of Life was the very ending, which had a plot twist that was actually interesting and surprising. I only gasped once in the entire movie, and it was at the end. I won’t reveal the ending, for the sake of giving you some reason to watch it. But overall, Life is a mediocre knock-off alien movie, which I don’t think is worth paying money to see. But if it comes out on Netflix or some other free movie streaming service, and you have a couple hours of time on your hands, then you might as well give it a watch.