Given the rapid rate at which technology is progressing, the science-fiction genre has almost become obliged to predict tomorrow. Thirty or so years ago we could indulge in movies that thrive in overstatement, with a freedom to present a future of their choosing, where flying cars adorn the landscape. But now so much is available to us, to create a narrative an audience member can adhere to, there often needs to be a sense of authenticity injected into proceedings, to craft a story and world that seems believable – and it’s here Daniel Espinosa’s Life comes into its element, steeped in realism that requires only a small suspension of disbelief.
The idea is somewhat simplistic – as we meet a small crew of astronauts in outer space, who have encountered what they believe to be life form on Mars. With Hugh Derry (Ariton Bakare) fronting the investigation, he grows attached to this tiny organism, while his colleagues, such as Roy (Ryan Reynolds), David (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson) stand by in awe. With news filtering down to Earth a celebration of their findings is imminent, though perhaps it’s best the champagne is put on hold, for this creature – they’ve affectionately named Calvin – is growing, and the larger it gets, the more powerful it becomes, and with nothing to compare to, they fear if this extraterrestrial life form was to start attacking them, they’d have no way of knowing how to combat it.
Heavily influenced by Alien, though somewhat too closely at times, it’s in the antagonist of the piece where such similarities are effective, for we have no way of understanding Calvin, and what it’s capable of. Not only physically, and just how much power it possesses, but compassionately too, and whether it can be levelled with, which enhances the fear. The film does frustratingly lose its way however, almost taking on the form of a b-movie survival flick, but not in an affectionate, knowing manner. To truly get away with this, you need a director who is more willing to revel in the absurdity and play up to it accordingly, and yet Life takes itself just that little bit too seriously – which comes as a surprise given it’s penned by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
The simplicity of the narrative is a bonus however, as is the predominantly single-setting, which adds a sense of claustrophobia to proceedings to make for an immersive cinematic experience. But the film’s biggest flaw is the lack of character development, as we know so little about the protagonists, nor do we care about who lives or dies. Given the film becomes a true tale of survival by the close of play, this proves to be something of a problem.