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Life review: Jake Gyllenhaal leads a game of hide and seek in space

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 24 March 2017, 14:07 IST
(Life movie poster)

Jake Gyllenhaal has made some pretty interesting movie choices. And he is always living on the edge. Whether it has been Nightcrawler or Enemy. His latest movie Life, quite similar to his older movies, is of those flicks which keeps you at the edge of your seat till the very last moment.

Boil it down to the simplest – it's a sci-fi horror space thriller. It's being touted by many as an Alien clone and at the core of it, that is not very off the mark. Some may say it's closer to Arrival, with its first scene that makes the viewer float around the claustrophobic International Space Station (ISS), with the camera turning upside-down at various points.

From our movie experience in the past, we know that human-alien contact movies always end in some kind of violence. Life is no different.

The researchers – all six of them – are on a mission to retrieve samples from Mars. These samples are the first definite proof of life beyond Earth. As we also know from the past, these alien creatures don't stay small.

Our alien form Calvin, as a girl from a school names it after winning a contest, grows into something uncontrollable and that's where the movie starts to take its first turn. Till then it was all rosy with each member getting along with the other and Ryan Reynolds playing his favourite side-kick role. Another bonus is that Reynolds is reunited with his Deadpool screenwriters. The combination helps break the tension of the movie with a couple of wisecracks.

But to be fair, Reynolds is a part of one of the movie's best scenes. Reynolds opens the lab and charges in to rescue Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) and one can only guess what happens next.

Hugh, an exobiologist, is the most excited of the entire lot when Calvin first enters the lab. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), is tasked with the job of quarantining the place. All is going well until a moment of human error causes the single-cell organism to seemingly go into a state of hibernation.

Upon trying to revive it, all hell breaks loose and from this point, the movie settles into a game of hide-and-seek between the humans and the ever-growing organism.

This is where the 'thriller' and 'horror' parts of the movie come in. Thriller because you don't know who the organisms next prey is going to be. Horror because you never know when and where that vicious creature will come out from.

This is a tried and tested technique for sci-fi films and it's a shame that a movie with so much promise (the cast, the cinematography and the screenwriters) falls into that trap and fails to go beyond it. It also doesn't have those heart-stopping scenes that older movies of the same genre can boast of.

Life spews out a bunch of NASA lingo – airlocks, escape pods etc – and gets muddled up in the firewalls and protocols.The movie is littered with mistakes so it's no real shock that the surprise ending falls flatter than most in its genre. The few shocks present during the 110 minutes doesn't do the movie justice.

The movie is littered with mistakes so it's no real shock that the surprise ending falls flatter than most in its genre. The few shocks present during the 110 minutes doesn't do the movie justice.

Still, despite the negatives, sci-fi fans will love the movie and Gyllenhaal's superb acting makes it an entertaining and suspenseful watch. The background score adds some positives to the experience. Even if one can guess what's going to happen next, it's still an edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff. With Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant releasing shortly, Life actually works quite well as an appetiser.

Rating: 3.5/5

First published: 24 March 2017, 14:00 IST
 
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.

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