Plot: What’s it about?
With a clear inspiration from Alien, Life follows a six person crew as they discover what appears to be the first evidence of life on Mars. Of course, we’ve all seen enough movies by now to know that nothing is quite as it seems. After all, if there were no issues, the film would be over before you know it. Still, it manages to provide enough decent thrills if you’re not too picky and can overlook some shortcomings. Also, despite the presence of Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, the cast isn’t given a ton to work with here.
ISS, the International Space Station capture a probe returning from Mars that contains a soil sample which may or may not include extraterrestrial life. Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) is the biologist who makes most of the important calls. They name this multi-celled organism “Calvin.” There’s an accident in the lab which causes Calvin to become dormant. We get to know a bit about the characters, but they’re not the most developed I’ve seen. Still, once the mayhem starts and the plot kicks into gear, it’s hard not to become a little invested. Thankfully the film doesn’t get too over our heads with wild ideas and terminology. Instead, it focuses more on the capture and containment of Calvin as the crew struggles to stay alive.
I think to best enjoy Life, one has to lower expectations a bit and not nitpick the film too much. I admit it took the film a little while to get going, but once it did I became much more invested. There’s a surprising amount of tension as well. We’re also treated to something of a surprise ending that might anger some viewers. I admit that I spotted where it was headed just before the big reveal, but it was a nice twist nonetheless. All the actors do fine in their respective parts even if the roles aren’t the most memorable. The same can be said of the film. When you’re in it and watching it, it mostly entertains, but it doesn’t really leave you with anything. It’s simply a decent way to spend a couple of hours and nothing more. It’s not something I’d revisit often, but it’s worth watching once.
Video: How’s it look?
Life comes to Ultra HD/4K looking, well, pretty stunning. The included 2.40:1 HEVC 4K image and coming from the folks at Sony, it should come as no surprise. They rarely deliver bad transfers with newer titles. Details are strong throughout and colors are nice and smooth with no obvious issues. This is a dark film a lot of times, but the visuals are always clear and noticeable. All things told, this transfer satisfies and is certainly indicative of a new to the format disc.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The 4K version sports a very robust Dolby Atmos mix and it gets plenty of chances to flex its muscle. The Blu-ray, while not quite as robust, has a solid DTS HD track that provides the usual pros. Vocals are fine, but the effects are what the viewer will listen for. The rear channels kick in nicely and really add to the atmosphere of the film. It offers a nice range as well. Like the transfer, this track does the film justice.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes
- Jordan Examines his Stamp Collection
- Adams Mending his Helmet
- The Tang Breakfast Scene
- Derry in the Gym
- Adams’ Body is Placed Inside his Pod
- Sho and Jordan Talk
- Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space – I’m reminded of the tag line for Alien – “In space, no one can hear you scream.” And that’s the message they’re trying to convey here. There’s no up, down, left or right and the enemy doesn’t make a sound. This is brief rundown by the cast and crew of the film and its general theme.
- Life: In Zero G – The cast and crew talk of some of the hardships of filming a movie in zero gravity. The 50+ pound suits and the challenge of conveying emotion with no gravity.
- Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin – We get a look at “Calvin”, the creature in the film. We get a feel and some history as to how it was created, how it wasn’t a mere expansion of us, but something totally new and how (of course) nothing like this has ever been on screen before!
- Astronaut Diaries – Ryan Reynolds’ character offers up some very dry humor “Being an astronaut isn’t all Wheaties boxes and handjobs…” while Rebecca Ferguson’s character seems a lot more grounded (pardon the pun) and we finish off with Ariyon Bakare’s character seems more fearful for his life. Of note, the scenes seem intentionally pixellated giving a more authentic look.
The Bottom Line
While far from a classic or memorable, Life still passes the time in a fairly entertaining manner. It’s a good diversion from the various remakes and superhero films that flood the market these days. I’d advise a rental before a purchase as I don’t think it offers strong replay value. Still, it’s worth watching once.