I wrote a post about the movie for Forbes. That post focuses on the moral and ethical dilemma of seeking to engage alien lifeforms, and shares some tidbits from the writers of the movie as well.
Humans are a curious species. Yes, we are peculiar, but I meant the other kind of curious—the kind where we seek to explore and discover new things. For as long as mankind has been aware of outer space and other stars and planets, we have also speculated about the potential for sentient creatures beyond Earth. The movie ‘Life’ illustrates that the quest for extraterrestrial beings might not go the way we’d like it to, though.
I don’t want to give too much away. I feel like many movie reviews share too much and undermine the moviegoing experience. The basic premise is that an unmanned drover has captured core samples from Mars and sent them back to be analyzed by the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) to determine if there are any signs of life. The crew discovers a single-celled organism in the dirt sample, and things quickly go awry from there.
Life has an all-star cast including Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, and Jake Gyllenhaal. To give it some perspective based entirely on other science fiction movies, I would say that the plot of Life is like a hybrid between Alien and Gravity. In terms of how it ranks against other recent movies, I would say that it is better than Passengers, but not as good as The Martian.
The movie is a bit slow to get started. There’s a lot of setup of life on ISS, and meeting the various members of the crew—and an attempt to provide some back story to help you relate to the characters. Once the alien organism is discovered, though, the movie ends up being suspenseful.
One thing I will give away—although I believe it is in a trailer as well, so maybe not a spoiler—is that the alien being ends up being named Calvin. Calvin plays quite well as the villain in the cramped environment of the ISS. In fact, Calvin as the alien antagonist might be the strongest part of the film.
I had an opportunity to see an early screening of the movie, and speak with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the writers of Life. The pair were also behind the movie Deadpool (and are currently working on Deadpool 2). I asked them some questions about the mechanics behind some of the scenes—specifically how they made the actors appear weightless, and how they made the actors appear freezing in one set of scenes.
It turns out that the crew did not use the famed “Vomit Comet”—a specially-outfitted aircraft that climbs and then dips steeply—over and over—to simulate weightlessness for 20 to 25 seconds at a time. Instead, the production crew engineered an elaborate series of wires, and the actors were suspended from the wires in a harness. Rhett and Wernick said the actors spent hours in the harnesses during the shooting of those scenes.
Go see the movie. Come back here and comment after you’ve seen it, and then we can freely discuss any questions or issues you might have with it. I’d love to hear your opinion of it as well.