It’s Life, Jim,
exactly as we know it...
At the end of the day, the new big budget sci-fi outing,
Life, doesn’t ask many searching questions, but then perhaps the question
should be, does it need to?
Life does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a gripping,
convincing space action-drama, with a great monster, realistic cast and the
kind of life-in-space special effects that are so good and so realistic, that
you forget that they are special effects at all.
It sustains real tension from the get go to the final scene,
and you feel a very tangible sense of jeopardy for the crew. It is visceral in
its violent deaths and injuries, and best of all, it has a monster that is
fully realised and beautifully crafted, unlike the creature in the shadows,
suggested by a random tentacle, that you so often get fobbed off with in this
type of film.
It certainly doesn’t stretch the boundaries or break the
mould, but then maybe it doesn’t have to. After all, the Rebels have been
pretty much blowing up the same Death Star for seven or eight films, and Star
Trek has been boldly going where the original series went before for 50 years.
Like both of these, Life is done well and doesn’t let you down.
You know what you are going to get, and you get it, nothing
more, nothing less – and I for one am ok with that. All too often, sci-fi films
try to be too clever for their own good and leave you scratching your head when
you should be gripping your seat. Think Prometheus, Interstellar or the king of
them all, the impenetrably pompous 2001 A Space Odyssey. Sometimes we just want
a simple story of man vs aliens.
Much of the publicity plays on the similarity to the
original Alien movie, but Life also owes a considerable debt to 2013’s Gravity.
Like Sandra Bullock’s adventures, this is a space story that feels very
grounded in today’s technology and our own planet. There are no laser guns or
teleports, no galaxy far far away, just the familiar International Space
Station that we have all seen on the news, where Chris Hadfield floats around
with his guitar.
At just 103 minutes, Life is able to maintain its tension and
never outstays its welcome, though perhaps a little longer run time would let
us get to know the characters a little better, before they are brutally picked
off one by one.
My only complaint would be the choice of title sequence
song. It’s hardly a plot spoiler to say that there is non stop carnage for an
hour and a half, and the ending is as open and thought provoking as the original
Planet of the Apes – so ending the film with Doctor and the Medics jolly ditty,
‘Spirit in the Sky’, seemed a bit jarring and banal to me.
Life, Jim, is exactly as we know it, but is none the worse
for that, and sci-fi fans will feel on familiar, and enjoyable, territory.