Review: Top notch sci-fi horror Life is only let down by its less than scary alien

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as David Jordan in sci-fi chiller Life. Picture: Sony Pictures

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as David Jordan in sci-fi chiller Life. Picture: Sony Pictures - Credit: PA

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in film that pulls plenty of surprises, a surprisingly dark, and twisted enterprise, but often quite subtle in the way it defies your expectations.

Life (15)

****

Life is a film you might have decided was not worth risking your time and money on based on the bland ubiquity of its marketing campaign.

The Mount Rushmore poster of the three lead actors, their faces framed by the slipped halo of the rim of their spacesuits, seemed to be an admission on the part of the distributors: this film has got stars but nothing much else other than some run-of-the-mill deadly alien let loose, thrills and frights.


You may also want to watch:


It starts with a contrived piece of tension in which the crew of the space station ISS have to try and manually retrieve an unmanned capsule returning from Mars with soil samples which has strayed from its planned trajectory.

The purpose of this heady opening is to mark out its territory and set up its characters, but also to buy some time. After the busy start, the film doesn't then have to rush through the part where the scientists discover that there is a single cell organism in the soil, and showing them all being thrilled at having discovered non-terrestrial life. I doubt anyone is going to go in to this not knowing that it is scary film, but if you were to, you would be hoodwinked into thinking this was some kind of optimistic, philosophical sci-fi film for quite a while before its dark side is revealed.

Most Read

Life has its flaws. The creature is a disappointment. It's both too, and not enough like Alien. It's not distinctive and its CGI rendering is less lifelike than the rest of the space ship environment. Compared to its environment, it looks fake.

Towards the end there are a few narrative developments that aren't properly explained. Mostly though this is top notch sci-fi horror. The terrain looks familiar, like the other films in the genre, but though it may look like all the others, Life pulls plenty of surprises, a surprisingly dark, and twisted enterprise, but often quite subtle in the way it defies your expectations.

The crew are initially chuffed with their discovery of life, so hopeful about its potential. It's quite snide the way the film drags out their period of optimism: the crew of the Nostromo were never under any illusion about the Alien being benign.

Jake Gyllenhaal's character wants to be above humanity, but by the end he is fighting for his territory, willing to kill to protect. Life is life, the film seems to be saying, ultimately just a grim struggle motivated by the desire to survive.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter