Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, explore new species and discuss Life, which premiered in the United States on Friday, March 24, 2017.
Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.
Now, join John Edward Lawson as he talks about Life! [Note: Minor spoilers that shouldn’t ruin any enjoyment of the film.]
John: As the motto of Life‘s astronauts goes: “Slow makes fast.” Life is slow, deliberate, and intense. While I wasn’t on the edge of my seat with terror the whole time, the entire experience was captivating. The most breathtaking aspect of this movie is the astronauts, well, astronauting — showing the extent to which we’re living in the future right now. On top of that, we experience the separation from family, good buddies with casual banter, and mundane struggles that make astronauts relatable in a way other films never quite achieve.
All the hype about Ryan Reynolds being a scene-stealer set me up for disappointment. Not because he isn’t, it’s just that Reynolds isn’t around much. So if you’re jonesing for Deadpool you’ll have to wait. At the same time it’s cool to see Hiroyuki Sanada again, since he brings gravitas to his scenes. You might remember him from The Wolverine, Lost, and The Last Samurai.
If you caught the adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, then you’re familiar with Ariyon Bakare’s brilliant work. His performance here is no exception. But. Since his character has paraplegia, which figures into the plot to unexpected effect, I was distracted by wondering why somebody actually dealing with paraplegia can’t ever be cast in these roles.
The rest of the international cast, from Sweden’s Rebecca Ferguson to Russia’s Olga Dilhovichnaya to Jake Gyllenhaal, were so natural and in-the-moment — even during the most unreal situations — I felt like I was watching a documentary at times.
Case in point: near the film’s end, when the space station’s artificial atmosphere fails and the temperature plummets, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I didn’t understand what was happening until I realized I was shivering. The intimate closeness we share with the astronauts as they go through what seems actual hypothermia convinced my body it was happening in real life!
As with any worthwhile alien movie the real star is “Calvin,” a single-cell organism named via public contest in the post-discovery hype. Calvin does a lot of heavy lifting, including inadvertently reproducing “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo, with an assist from scientist Hugh Derry (Bakare). Calvin is pretty chill until you get pushy, and is totally believable. I wanted to high-five Calvin sometimes, but, y’know, it’s nice keeping my hand attached to my body.
And the ending. There may be some haters out there who criticize parallels between this film and past alien horror entries, but I don’t see how anybody couldn’t appreciate the level of harsh they take Life to in the final moments. That’s all the misanthropist in me could hope for.
Obvious spoiler alert: despite the rumors, this is not a prequel to Venom. Since Marvel stories occur in a shared universe, but Ryan Reynolds shows up as astronaut Rory Adams instead of Deadpool…do I even need to finish that thought?