Life – 2017
Director Daniel Espinosa
Screenplay by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have some genuine geek credentials, having two of the biggest nerdist success stories of the last decade in their writing repertoire. First Zombieland managed to stand out in a crowded field of the undead back in 2009, then they hit pay-dirt with the Deadpool last year. This is the point in the trajectory where one dusts off some old work that must have some value and see if someone will overspend.
In the case of Life, what we get is tantamount to the opening story for a movie they were contracted to write originally, but now stands in limbo. To share more than that might give a tiny bit of the plot away. Really, though, there isn’t much to give.
Mostly what Life has going for it is one, at most two, surprises. If these are enough to sate your desires in a film, then the fact that the rest of the story is bland as hell may not bother you as much.
The gist of the story is a team of astronauts and scientists bring in a load of samples brought back from Mars. Included within the samples is the tiniest remnant of a dormant living organism. They manage to nudge it along and – lo and behold – what starts out as adorable becomes a killer in a short period of time. Soon enough we’re down to a not quite handful and the goal of the team moves from quarantine, to elimination to Def Con 1 in matter of hours.
It’s not a very good film, to say the least. Minor characters are there not for their acting talent, but to add a touch of ethnicity. It’s a tough thing to watch good actors narrowed to their face value.
Gyllenhaal and Ferguson have a few moments, though, and the ending actually is the only part of the film that doesn’t seem like it was thoroughly vetted by a test audience. That doesn’t mean it’s all that good, though.
The being, for what it’s worth, has a reason to look as luminescent as a cartoon. It still is hard not to wonder what all of the screaming is about when it’s obvious that they are acting against a green screen.
The film is not so much bad as it offers nothing more than the depressing realization that even if this had been a prequel to another more lucrative franchise, it would only serve as relief that the other project died before touching down.
(*1/2 out of *****)