Life Finds a Way
The moment the first trailer for Life hit theaters, we were all immediately taken back to 1979’s Alien from Ridley Scott. The problem was, we weren’t sure whether or not that was a bad thing. On one hand, we have a new film paying homage to the greatest sci-fi horror film ever made. On the other hand, we have a film that looks like it wants to be a reboot of Alien. We don’t need that. We have it with Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.
The good news is that Life isn’t so much a stolen plot of Alien as it is a tribute to what made that film so monumental. What the movie does is tell the audience, “Look, we know you love what that had to offer. We’d like to try and offer it to you as well, in our own way.” And that’s completely fine by me. I think where Life shines through on its own is in its use of familiarity in time and setting. That may sound weird, but stay with me. The astronauts are on the International Space Station; they aren’t lightyears away from Earth, hundreds of years in the future. In fact, through most of the beginning of the film, the astronauts have communication with Earth and even let an elementary school from New York name the alien lifeform they discover. This proximity to the planet is a subtle importance that many may not think about. What it does is give the audience an even harder time catching their breath, because we know just how close they are to home while all this is happening.
A small cast of some large names deliver a great ensemble performance.
Life’s cast is just as good as you’d think it would be. A small cast of some large names deliver a great ensemble performance. The quality of the performances helps the film be about the alien species attacking them and their survival, instead of the names attached. The cast works incredibly well together as actors as well as characters. Each character is written interestingly and uniquely. They all have something to offer to the film, in terms of their profession, as well as their usefulness in the situation.
But Life isn’t about the survival of the astronauts, really. It’s about the alien species which is terrorizing and murdering said astronauts. I think this is really where it builds its own brand instead of following Alien. Alien was about the crew, and most importantly, Ripley. The Xenomorph is not the main player in the film. Life turns that premise around, and it really works. With the Xenomorph in Alien, we didn’t understand anything about it and that’s what made it terrifying. With “Calvin” (the name given to the alien by the students at Calvin Coolidge Elementry), we learn a decent amount about its origins and even its motivation through the studies the crew does on the ISS. Interestingly enough, this brings a human-like quality to the terrifying man-eating space creature, because we learn that all it’s really trying to do is survive.
[Life] holds its head high and says that sci-fi horror can still be terrifying, while remaining humane.
Life is the type of movie that hits all the points you expect and want it to hit. It’s a sci-fi horror film that will have you wriggling in your seat. It’s use of music in instrumental (pun intended) moments is eerie and welcoming. It’s ability to make you feel uncomfortable in the face of such a slimy, disgusting, creature is incredibly well done. But one of the greatest moments of the film (which I will not spoil) is the ending. Life sort of uses a Kansas City Shuffle to turn the film’s ending on its side. It leaves you wanting more but not in a way that warrants a sequel, if that makes sense. It shows you what’s going to happen next but that’s the most it needs to show you to satisfy your hunger.
Life is a well thought out sci-fi horror films from a strong cast and crew. It’s a solid film that will make you want to rewatch Alien, and that’s not a bad thing. It stands on its own while tipping its hat to Ridley Scott’s film. It knows to say “thanks for paving our way and letting us do our own thing.” It’s a film holds its head high and says that sci-fi horror can still be terrifying, while remaining humane.