If you’re getting prepared for Alien: Covenant coming out in May, Sony has a film that might just be up your alley. Life from director Daniel Espinosa and starring Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ryan Reynolds is a sci-fi horror/thriller about six scientists who collect soil from Mars and bring aboard dormant alien DNA which the scientists bring back to life with horrifying consequences.
What works for Life is the horror element, when the alien is onscreen I was fascinated, I was engaged, and I was at scared. Unfortunately, when “Calvin” (the alien) is not onscreen the audience has to rely on the level of depth in the human characters, and this is where Life loses a lot of its momentum built up by the terrific monster. The six scientists are nothing special, the only one to get truly fleshed out is Jake Gyllenhaal’s character David who is a man who prefers the silence of space to the noise of Earth. Ryan Reynolds plays Rory, the engineer of the voyage who quips all the time and it grated on me so much because not a single line was funny. Rebecca Ferguson plays Miranda North a by the books leader, and sadly she doesn’t bring that charm and wit that she showed off in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Even though the cast is small, only six characters overall against Calvin, it is these three that are the focus of the film.
Looking back at Life I remember several scenes that stood out to me, and this is all due to the horrifying interactions Calvin has with the scientists, and when it dishes out its first casualty, you will be left horrified and with a sudden sense of dread because no one is safe. Sadly the film as a whole doesn’t capitalise on this, we never get a full explanation of what Calvin is, and in Life, it feels oddly necessary because the mystery of its origin isn’t enough to grip you. If the film had found some way to give us information on this fascinating creature I think we could have had the makings of a horror legend. Instead, we’re treated to a lot of lingering scenes of people staring off into space which feels out of place since they are in the fight of their lives against a creature that seems impervious to all forms of harm.
I believe the reason I’m so disappointed in the human characters is the fact that the screenplay was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernik, the co-writers that brought us the Deadpool film. Everyone who has seen Deadpool knows how sharp the story was and how memorable the characters were. Life has none of the charm or humanity that made the writing of Deadpool so significant.
Life is an enjoyable film filled with memorable moments and packed with genuine horror. Unfortunately, the actors are given nothing to work with due to the weak story which ultimately lets the film down. My final takeaway from Life is that I wish the film was as enjoyable as the Reddit theory that’s going around about it. Be sure and check it out once you see the film.