An international space crew discovers life on Mars.
Daniel Espinosa’s latest effort is a solidly crafted and effective space thriller, focusing on a crew on board a spaceship searching for life on Mars. The film’s strength and weaknesses both come through in its familiarity, with the Alienesque premise allowing the film to develop its story at pace and career towards the action with minimal setup, but you can’t shake the sense that we’ve seen this all before in superior movies. The opening establishes what the film is going to be about as we meet the six crew members, all of whom fit into archetypal roles and are never really developed further, but the interest is focused more on ‘Calvin’, a small life form the crew have discovered on Mars and intend to study. Of course, we know where this is going, but ‘Life’ knows this too and moves straight to the action, skipping the build up that would feel unnecessary here.
Daniel Espinosa has built a career on directing promising looking films that end up disappointing in one way or another (‘Safe House’, ‘Child 44’), so it was good that ‘Life’ more than matched my expectations, even if the bar was set a little lower. The film is short and to the point, the performances are strong, and Espinosa’s direction builds a good level of tension and I was fully invested in the way the plot developed. There’s also a couple of surprisingly pleasing narrative choices that kept me on my toes and I liked that. If the premise of ‘Life’ piques your interest it’s worth a watch, but don’t go in expecting anything groundbreaking either.
Directed By: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare and Olga Dihovichnaya