Director Daniel Espinosa has a quote on his IMDB page, “The stories you have in the very core of your heart are actually the only stories you can make. And when you have cultivated one of these stories in a film you will be able to feel your soul in it.” With his latest film, Life, Espinosa is showing the dark corner of his heart.
There is no escaping the comparison to Alien (full disclosure, Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of my all-time favorite films), but Life is not a cheap copy of the 1979 sci-fi opus. The two pictures share a dark, ominous, tone. They both have astronauts who discover a new life form. Both movies keep you on the edge of your seat, too. Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and Rebecca Ferguson, do most of the heavy-lifting in the acting department. Subtle and authentic nuances and some amazing CGI make Life worth viewing.
The sentient being discovered in Espinosa’s film is a single-cell organism that thrills the space station crew. Pity their elation is short-lived. Things go wrong. Very wrong. Very quickly.
The lifeform is smarter than they thought. A lot more deadly too. The race is on to kill, subdue, or get obliterated by the creature and leave Earth vulnerable to certain doom. It’s not a spoiler to disclose any of these points, the trailer does a very good job of showing all of that. What it doesn’t show is a group of six actors and a director creating a sci-fi film that has seemingly natural split second decisions in an unpredictable situation. Sometimes, no decision is the right one. Sometimes, no matter what you do or don’t do, fate is going to play out the way it is intended.
There’s a common thread between Life, Interstellar, Gravity, Arrival, Aliens, and Tarkovsky’s Solaris: Whenever we go into space, varying degrees of bad things happen to good people. Watching our best and brightest venture out into the galaxy to conquer the unknown only to come face to face with an epic struggle is a story always worth telling. Like “The Iliad” from centuries ago, sci-fi stories can tell us as much about society and ourselves as they do about the mind, or heart, of the storyteller.