Main cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Dr David Jordan), Rebecca Ferguson (Dr Miranda North), Ryan Reynolds (Rory Adams), Hiroyuki Sanada (Sho Kendo), Ariyon Bakare (Hugh Derry), and Olga Dihovichnaya (Katerina Golovkina)
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Ooh, the first evidence of life outside of Earth has been discovered! In this movie, US, China, and Russia have come together to build an International Space Station that hover in an orbit around Earth, and their most recent package is a soil sample from Mars. In that sample, biologist Hugh Derry discovers a dormant single cell that he manages to revive using a jolt of electricity. This is grand news to the whole world, and everyone is excited, because nobody has seen an alien horror film before. A contest is held in which the winning grade school gets to name the cell – Calvin. The rest of the crew – Dr David Jordan, former military who wants to remain in space due to some PTSD from his time in Syria; quarantine officer Dr Miranda North who is all rules and making sure that everything is safe, pilot Sho Kendo who keeps talking about how he has a family to go back home too (which of course makes him a dead man walking in movies such as this), and commander Katerina Golovkina whose sole personality trait is that she is Russian. Oh, and Rory Adams, the brash engineer who doesn’t like rules too much and tries to bend them whenever he could.
As you can guess, Calvin soon grows to uncontrollable proportions, it is hungry, and everyone’s so dead.
Life confuses me, because it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. At first, it seems to be this sci-fi movie wanting to make profound statements about life and what not, but once the carnage starts, it morphs into a standard trapped-in-space fare. But it doesn’t dare to go too far into either direction, so this one ends up being quite neither here nor there. It’s not terrifying or gory enough to be a horror movie – Calvin, in fact, looks like a translucent jello goop that is far from scary – and the death scenes are pretty lame, but at the same time, it doesn’t introduce any interesting philosophy or twist to be a memorable pseudo-intellectual sci-fi film. The cast is competent, but their roles are threadbare thin. The only memorable characters are Rory, mostly because he’s Deadpool in space and of his fate, and Dr Miranda North because she’s easily one of the most annoying and useless characters in a film such as this. She talks tough, but push comes to shove, she has to have a man tell her how to do her job. Ugh.
Also, I’m not sure why the whole space station seems to be so weak. For one, there are only six staff members, and none of them carry any weapon. Apparently, there are no contingency plans for emergencies when things go wrong, other than to panic and start pressing buttons, even if they are going to be conducting experiments on an alien life form on board. Of course, things malfunction when it’s convenient for Calvin, so in the end, we have an embarrassing scenario of an initially fist-sized alien thing causing six people to happily set out to dismantle and destroy themselves as well as the entire space station to stop it from reaching Earth. Can’t the sponsoring countries spare some biohazard team or some military men? Or at least allocate some budget for proper maintenance to prevent things like buttons jamming and navigation system failing all over the place in this movie?
At the end of the day, Life is a movie about the sad state of human intelligence and competence. If it wants to say anything more, I’m afraid its messages are garbled by the constant stream of incompetence and malfunction running rampant throughout its entire course.