For anyone who's seen "Alien," the premise of "Life" sounds familiar: A group of astronauts is stuck inside a cramped space station with an alien being whose chief desire is to kill them all. But "Life" takes everything that made "Alien" a terrifying film and cranks it up to warp speed. This movie is intense, frightening and exceedingly grim.
Please don't mistake that last paragraph for me suggesting that "Life" is better than Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece — because it's not — but the peril in this film makes its older counterpart look like a trip to Disneyland.
"Life" is set in a very near, recognizable future and follows a six-person crew aboard the International Space Station orbiting Earth. The team discovers the first proof of alien life, examining a microscopic organism picked up by a Mars probe. The being rapidly grows, eventually out of the team's control, turning their interstellar laboratory into a death trap.
The small cast includes Hollywood A-listers Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as Rebecca Ferguson, best known for her work in BBC's "The White Queen." The cast does a fine job of providing some humanity to what is essentially a group of cold scientists. I enjoyed every actor in the group, especially Ariyon Bakare who plays the biologist that blames himself for the crew's predicament.
But "Life" isn't about the cast, it's all about the alien. Calvin—as the being is named by a group of American school kids—is as imposing a villain as can be created. He's essentially indestructible and is able to adapt on the fly to any situation the crew devises to dispose of him.
I was impressed by how unforgiving this movie was to its human characters—and its audience. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the guys behind "Zombieland" and "Deadpool") show no quarter to Calvin's victims. The violence and gore in this movie are extremely graphic and will make weak-stomached viewers nauseated at times. The (literally) bone-crunching sound effects were enough to make several people audibly groan in the screening I attended.
But even with a booming sound system, I had a hard time understanding some of the dialog at times. The ISS crew is obviously made up of people from different nationalities and the thick accents combined with quiet dialog mixing made me wish I'd had subtitles.
If you like your horror unflinching and your villains ruthless, you will dig "Life." But if you want a feel-good escape from the brutality of real life, you might want to buy a ticket to "Beauty and the Beast."
CLINT'S GRADE: ???½ (out of 5)
Release Date: March 24, 2017
MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror)
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson
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