Life (2017)

(Video On-Demand, July 2017) I really wanted to like Life more than I did. After all, while I’m not all that fond of yet another monster-in-space horror/SF movie, the idea of making such a film following the hyper-real example of Gravity (which Life really wants to emulate down to very similar opening tracking shots and South-Asian finale) is intriguing, and so is the cast, leading with the always-sympathetic Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal. I’m even open to downbeat finales, provided they make some kind of thematic and plotting sense. But from the first few moments, something is off with Life, and the problems just escalate from there. The issues start with a needlessly obscured “catch the satellite” sequence that barely makes physical sense, but then they get worse as a magical alien life form shows up with no other goal than to kill everyone in increasingly gruesome ways. The impossibly intelligent creature soon makes mincemeat out of the crew, helped along with an absurd succession of dumb character/screenwriting decisions that clearly show that the deck is stacked against a happy ending. The horror sequences are more stomach-churning than entertaining, and the downbeat conclusion depends on a flip of a coin. While it’s kind of daring to kill off your most charismatic character first, and to doom the entire human race by the end, it doesn’t really make for an entertaining movie. Life ends by leaving viewers with the impression of having brushed against something repulsive … which really doesn’t help repeat viewings. For all of the high-tech gloss that makes Life so intriguing, director Daniel Espinosa’s halfway competent execution doesn’t really mask the problems with the script. My tolerance for unhappy endings is growing smaller and smaller every year (and it was never really all that forgiving in the first place), so when an everybody-dies-horribly film like Life comes along, I find it ever easier to dismiss it almost completely.

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