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  Life Is The Name Of The Game
Year: 2017
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryan Reynolds, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dykhovichnaya, Naoko Mori, Alexandre Nguyen, Woong-sin Hiu
Genre: Horror, Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: On the International Space Station the crew are planning to capture a space probe that has travelled to Mars and back with a sample they hope will contain proof that life existed on the red planet before it essentially became a dead world. To do so, they must catch the craft with the station's arm, or else it will burn up in the Earth's atmosphere and all that potentially enlightening material will be lost forever. The astronaut in charge of that operation is Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), a bit of a joker but an efficient worker, and the rest of the six-person contingent await the outcome with bated breath - but it is fine, as the arm does indeed grab the probe, and so the experimentation can begin...

Liked Gravity but felt there should have been a rampaging space octopus on the loose to menace Sandra Bullock? Do they have a film in store for you! This was commonly labelled an Alien rip-off among just about everyone who saw it, but seeing as how Alien itself ripped off the fifties B-movie It! The Terror from Beyond Space then perhaps it was not the time to be pointing fingers. No matter, for Life looked very expensive (though as far as these things went, it was mid-budget in a way that was unusual for a science fiction epic from a major studio), slick and glossy with its state of the art effects and art design, and that went some way to sweetening what was a particularly reheated dish.

You know when Alien was released in 1979 how there was a collection of B-movies that sought to lift its mix of sci-fi and horror creature feature mishmash for their own purposes? That was how Life played, like a very belated cash-in, essentially the best Alien rip-off Roger Corman never made, probably because he never had access to these kinds of funds, and still did not at the point this was released. The technology had far moved on since those early eighties days, so instead of a bloke in a monster suit it was an animated computer graphic the I.S.S. crew were forced to contend with, which was more or less the twenty-first century equivalent of some poor actor performing while enveloped in rubber.

That's correct, the tiny spore of life the probe brings back is soon growing and initially everyone is captivated, mostly because it moves and seems to interact in that glass box they have placed it in to examine it without fear of contamination. This notion that a space craft could be the bearer of bad news as far as the human race went was proving quite topical at the time, with folks either wondering if space held terrible microscopic diseases humanity had no defence against, or if those signals and deep space investigations we sent out would attract unwelcome attention from unfriendly aliens. Life combined those two fears in one resourceful and ever-advancing creature, not unlike the largely forgotten sci-fi chiller Virus from about twenty years before, that Jamie Lee Curtis one if you at all remember.

It was a rock-solid premise for a thriller with a fantastical bent, and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, fresh off the success of Deadpool, were only too happy to use it to their own ends. One crewmember, David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), opines he prefers being in space because people are so horrible to each other on Earth, so the rest of the film played out as a slap in the face to his misanthropy when his orbiting refuge proves even more dangerous and he realises he can save us all if he takes the correct steps. Easier said than done when that monster keeps finding a way to munch his friends, not least because they kept placing themselves in harm's way as a route to on screen peril and excitement, what you would expect from a monster movie, though not everyone was so tolerant of those well-worn devices. Leading up to an amusing punchline, Life was not going to win over the less seasoned viewers of such trifles, and the characters were ironically lifeless as far as their personalities went, but who watched these for witty dialogue and deep thought? Music by Jon Ekstrand.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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