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‘Life’ may not be inventive, but it’s still exciting

Sultana Qureshi
Sultana Qureshi

An eighteen-year-old currently in the middle of her gap year

Jakarta | Thu, March 23, 2017 | 12:02 pm
‘Life’ may not be inventive, but it’s still exciting

A still photo from 'Life'. (Columbia Pictures/File)

Life follows six astronauts on-board the International Space Station (ISS). When they manage to find proof of life on Mars, it’s reason to celebrate.

This comes about in the first ten minutes. Much like the movie, the discovery starts out innocently enough, just a single dormant cell in a petri dish.

But after being woken up, it quickly grows tentacles and learns that it needs to eat to survive.

The rest of the movie follows the crew’s struggle to keep the organism - dubbed Calvin - from growing larger and consuming them all.

The plot is a clear mix of the film Alien and 2013’s Gravity and the dialogue is unauthentic and stiff, but Life still manages to be a thrilling ride.

The tunnels of the ISS are claustrophobic and one can only move so quickly in zero gravity, so together these make for some exciting chase scenes.

Being in space raises the stakes and Life takes advantage of that.

While the cast features A-listers like Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, the two standout stars are Ariyon Bakare and Hiroyuki Sanada, who play Hugh Derry and Sho Kendo, respectively.

Sanada’s character, a man who just wants to survive long enough to return home to meet his newborn child, is the most compelling. The cast is also rounded out by actresses Rebecca Ferguson and Olga Dihovichnaya, who give noteworthy performances despite the weak writing.

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Still, the characters in Life are clichés. Reynolds is the sarcastic one and Gyllenhaal the lonely one. Nonetheless, this group has enough talent and chemistry to make them come to life. As the alien picks them off one-by-one, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of sadness, even if it doesn’t linger.

As the characters float effortlessly through zero gravity, it becomes clear that special effects are where this movie excels.

The way Calvin moves is enough to make audiences squirm, though the alien looks best in its adolescent state, as a starfish-like creature with translucent skin and gripping tentacles.

What Life lacks, surprisingly, is laughs. With screenwriters like Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the minds behind Marvel’s Deadpool, one might expect the occasional bout of comic relief, especially with a character like Reynolds.

Instead, the film is faced with pacing issues when it slows down after the crew obtains Calvin and right before the final climax, when it should have maintained the momentum it had built up at the very beginning and all throughout the middle. The plot twists are also obvious.

Life may not carve out a place of its own in science fiction’s hall of fame, but it’s a fun way to spend two hours. (asw)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.