I went into LIFE with sky-high expectations. The film boasts a tremendous cast, highlighted by Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and Rebecca Ferguson, was written by the co-writers of ZOMBIELAND and DEADPOOL, and each of the trailers were intense as hell. Much like the alien lifeform discovered by the crew in the film, however, LIFE flipped those expectations int he worst possible way – delivering an experience that was more “meh” than magnificent.
That’s not to say that LIFE is a “bad” film. It’s far from it, actually. Director Daniel Espinosa skillfully crafts moments of awe and tension throughout, but the film ultimately falls in the trap of being too similar to basically every other science fiction film of this caliber. Espinosa’s film follows predictable plot threads to such frustrating lengths that it lessens its own effectiveness, something I found to be rather disappointing.
The cast, too, which features Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare and Olga Dihovichnaya in addition to the previously mentioned actors, are given very little to do, which is a shame considering the level of assembled talent. Their characters, who we’re made to believe are smart, consistently make the worst possible decisions – which makes it quite difficult to sympathize with them as they’re picked off by the alien.
Where LIFE thrives most, though, is in its unwavering cynicism and darkness. The film is unexpectedly grim, which is a welcome change of pace for blockbuster-type movies. It wears that darkness on its sleeve from the very first death until its bleak, non-Hollywood ending. Ironically, the majority of the “fun” provided by the film rests in its resistance of following the typical fun we’ve come to expect from the screenwriters.
Sometimes movies are genuinely more enjoyable if you turn your brain off before watching. In the case of LIFE, not overthinking the thin plot, idiotic character choices, or similarities to better films would greatly benefit the viewer. Those who cannot ignore these flaws, however, are better served to revisit ALIEN for the millionth time. See it, but lower your expectations.