Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Life (2017)

Daniel Espinosa’s Sci-Fi thriller gets a digital download, 4k Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD release from Sony. 

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station intercept a probe returning from Mars. The dust from the device contains a life-form. There is the usual excitement and optimism from the research team that you get in films like this as they poke and probe the tiny creature that the audience knows / hopes is soon going to be ripping heads off and painting the white space station walls with their intestines. Because why are the walls white if not for that?

The creature gets named ‘Calvin’ from a school competition in a nice bit that allows for the filling in of a little bit of background. Quite why the dust contains only the one organism is never explained, as perhaps if ‘Klein’ had been grown in another petri dish they might have combined to form the first extra-terrestrial fashion house.
This does not happen.

Instead, Calvin escapes, eats the only rat on board and then starts on the crew, who are faced with the dilemma of how to stop him / it and get back to earth without causing a  disastrous spread of Calvinism on a worldwide scale. 

A monster on the loose in space picture in the tradition of Edward L Cahn’s IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1957), Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (1979) or even Norman J Warren’s INSEMINOID (1981), LIFE comes up sadly lacking when compared to any of those three predecessors. It possesses none of the claustrophobia of IT!, none of the suspense of ALIEN and not even any of the gleeful splatter of INSEMINOID. Instead, everything feels horribly bland and by the numbers, with little evidence that anyone behind the camera is terribly enthusiastic about what’s going on.

This is neither the fault of the writing (which doesn’t need to be that clever) nor of the acting (both Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds are always watchable). No, where LIFE dies (sorry) is in the direction, which is so seriously mishandled that we neither care about the characters, nor their mission, nor their fates when they succumb to the monster on the prowl.

To be honest, it’s not actually a terribly scary monster either. A bit less obvious CGI and a few more real-looking tentacles and general all-round gloopiness would have been an immense help. Sadly it’s all too obvious that the cast are manfully trying to fight with nothing other than empty space to be filled by pixels at some later date. 

Admittedly the last couple of minutes have a good punch to them, almost to the extent that you wonder if someone else took over to give the film a decent ending. Sadly it is too little too late. If only the verve and nastiness of the last bit had been employed throughout, LIFE would have been a much better picture.
Sony’s Blu-ray and DVD release comes with three featurettes: ‘Creating a Thriller in Space’, ‘LIFE in Zero G’ and ‘The Art & Reality of Calvin’. You also get ‘Astronaut Diaries’ which are tiny talking head snippets to camera from three of the cast in character. 

LIFE is out from Sony on digital download from Monday 17th July and on 4k Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 31st July 2017

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