With Alien: Covenant not too far away, Life is an excellent excuse to dive back into the SciFi-Thriller genre and watch some astronauts getting horribly murdered by a monster from the stars.
In the near future, NASA is bringing back an unmanned probe from Mars. On board, precious cargo: ground samples, supposedly containing the first conclusive proof for life on other planets. First tests reveal a simple single celled organism that’s rapidly growing and evolving when exposed to warmth, food, and oxygen. But the exciting discovery soon turns into a nightmare when „Calvin“ escapes his confinement, starting to wreak havoc on the ISS. With an alien beast loose, science turns to survival, as this being cannot be allowed to reach Earth.
I don’t particularly enjoy the horror genre. It’s not that I get scared easily, I just don’t get the entertainment due to the fact, that it fails to impact me emotionally. Thrillers are different. A story that keeps me on the edge of my seat for its entirety is far more engaging. Life manages this better than the extensive array of attempts at tense and dark science-fiction over the past years. And this might be slightly overboard, but it’s the first film since the original Alien movie that invoked the same feeling of claustrophobic fear. But besides visuals and cast, it all comes down to the lurking evil itself, „Calvin“. And while he’s no „Xenomorph“, he could’ve easily be conceived through the same nightmare in the mind of H.R. Giger (look up his art, he’s the original creator of the alien in „Alien“). So unlike any extraterrestrial lifeform I’ve ever seen on film, with his fluid motions, awe inspiring strength, and incomprehensible intelligence, parallels to the greatest killing machine in SciFi are easily drawn. Following the current scientific consensus that Mars could’ve looked quite similar to Earth just a few million years ago, it’s easy to imagine how „Calvin’s“ species once ruled the red world before its atmosphere thinned out and the planet died.
But a monster needs someone to terrorize. And given the limited screen time of many cast members, the film still manages to flesh out their personalities surprisingly well through the limited opportunities a movie on board a space station provides. Jake Gyllenhall as an astronaut who feels more comfortable in space than on earth can be considered a main character and does an excellent job. A man who indulges the vastness of space and thrives in zero gravity. But what does a thriller truly need to terrify its audience that is missing outside the ISS? Atmosphere. Sound design is possibly the most important aspect in it and, keeping with the theme of the movie, often not seeing „Calvin“ but rather have him lurking audibly through the station’s hull proves to be far more effective.
I have one big criticism though. And that’s the film’s ending. But it’s not about what it entailed or how it was presented, it just got more and more predictable over the final act of the story. But that shouldn’t keep anyone from watching Life anyway. It might be one of the most effective SciFi thrillers in recent history, as it kept my eyes glued to the screen and my whole body tense for the entire runtime. But I have one final thing to say!
This goes to the dipshit studio executive who’s currently in the process of greenlighting a sequel. If I see an announcement for Death or whatever you asshats are going to call the follow-up, I’m going to flip my shit! Please let a one-off story stay as it is with an ending open to our own imagination. Thanks!
Beitragsbild: Kevin Wendlandt
Bilder: Columbia Pictures