Friday, 31 March 2017

LIFE : Tuesday 28th March 2017.

I was keen to see 'LIFE' which I caught earlier on in the week. Directed by Daniel Espinosa, whose previous credits include 'Child 44' and 'Safe House', this Horror Sci-Fi, was made for US$58M, was released in the US and Australia on 23rd March, has so far grossed US$32M and garnered average reviews. This I have to say, I find a little surprising because I, for one enjoyed this isolated space station romp that has elements of 'Alien', 'Gravity' and 'Sunshine' in its make-up, and serves as a pre-cursor to the eagerly awaited much grittier 'Alien : Covenant' due in May this year, courtesy of franchise originator Ridley Scott.

The film is set entirely aboard an International Space Station sometime in the near future where the six-man crew successfully intercept an off course satellite probe returning from Mars with soil samples inside.

The crew is tasked with analysing that sample for what may prove to be the first signs of extra terrestrial life. British biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) who is expert in life forms beyond Earth, is able to extract a single cell from the soil samples, and sparks it into life by making adjustments to the nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide mixture he exposes it to, together with a dose of glucose. As time goes on the cell quickly grows into a multi-celled organism that begins to react to external stimulus.

Upon further analysis, and given the rate of growth Derry and British Quarantine Officer Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Fergusson) determine that each cell in the organism is a highly evolved muscle, brain and eye, all at once. As the days pass and become a couple of weeks the crew go about their normal space station routines - they eat, sleep, exercise, joke around and celebrate the birth of Japanese Systems Engineer Sho Murakami's (Hiroyuki Sanada) baby which he viewed live on screen. The next day or so there is an atmospheric leak in the lab where the organism is securely contained, causing it to become dormant. Derry attempts to reanimate it using a mild electric shock.

In so doing, after a number of seemingly unsuccessful attempts, the organism latches onto Derry's hand with an inordinate strength and wraps itself increasingly tightly around his lower arm. As Derry struggles to break free, so the vice like grip worsens. Derry's Space Station colleagues look on in horror from the other side of the lab containment wall, fearful of what action to take. Eventually Derry breaks free, but his hand is crushed, limp and bloody.

The organism breaks free from its contained examination cube, demonstrating its intelligence, and into the secure lab where Derry is nursing his crushed hand. American engineer and pilot of the International Space Station Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) enters the room in an attempt to rescue his colleague. By now the organism has devoured a lab rat and has grown further in size almost instantly. Sensing the presence of another human, the organism attaches itself to Adams leg and begins to crawl upwards. At this point all Hell has broken out. American Senior Medical Officer Dr. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) locks Rory inside the lab, so securing the organism, which Adams then attacks with a handheld incinerator device. But the organism it seems is able to withstand intense heat, and evades Adams attempts to kill it, by manoeuvering itself around the enclosed room with speed and agility. When the incinerator runs out of gas, and Adams attempt to foil that pesky alien critter have failed, that organism attaches itself to his face and slides into his mouth - killing Adams from the inside. Minutes later, with Adams body contorted and spitting globules of blood from his mouth, the organism emerges, having grown bigger again. Using an emergency fire suppression vent as a means of escape, the organism breaks out of the lab, and now has the run of the Space Station.

All means of communication with Earth suddenly are cut off. Russian crew Commander Katarina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) takes it upon herself to take a space walk to repair what is believed to be a broken antenna. In repairing the damage she notices that coolant has been drained from a reservoir and assumes that the organism has consumed it as a means of feeding itself. At this point the organism escapes through the antenna valve and promptly attacks Golovkina during her space walk, trying to gain entry through her space suit. In the ensuing struggle, her suits coolant system is ruptured pouring liquid coolant inside her suit - effectively drowning her.  Her limp lifeless body drifts off into space.

The organism gains entry back inside the Space Station. The remaining crew hatch a plan to make the organism dormant again by sealing themselves into one single module and venting all the atmosphere out of the remaining Station. In doing so, Derry goes into cardiac arrest. Jordan and North are able to resuscitate him, but only to see movement under his trouser leg. The organism has attached itself to Derry's leg and is feeding off him. Derry is paraplegic and so had no sense of touch or feeling in his legs. When the organism is revealed it has grown again, and is now a much larger more menacing tentacled creature than before even. It lunges to attack the there remaining crew who all head off in different directions. Sho heads to the sleeping quarters and quickly locks himself inside his sleeping pod with the organism hot on his heels. It attempts to break into the pod by crushing the glass, but is unsuccessful. Jordan and North attempt to tease the organism away from Sho, using the corpse of Derry as bait, and they are successful in locking it inside a module to deprive it of oxygen.

When a Russian Soyuz Capsule docks with the Space Station in response to an emergency SOS call before all communications were lost, Sho makes a dash for it believing this to be a rescue mission. The reality is however, that the Soyuz is there to push the Space Station into deep space, so preventing the organism from ever reaching Earth, where it will wipe out mankind, as it is believed to have done on Mars. The Soyuz Capsule docks against the module where the organism is contained, and in opening the hatch to gain entry, Sho is immediately attacked as are the crew of the Russian craft. Causing a docking breach, the Soyuz capsule is pushed backwards where it spirals out of control and crashes into the Stations vital infrastructure.

The collision causes the oxygen levels and the temperature to plummet very quickly. Jordan has a plan involving two escape pods, each of which are pre-programmed to auto-pilot back down to Earth.  He takes it upon himself to lure the organism into his pod and manually override the auto-pilot command and head out into deep space so sacrificing himself but ensuring that the organism cannot be Earthbound. He fears that the organism would likely survive re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, and so this is the only option. This will create the necessary distraction to allow North to make a clean getaway in the other escape pod.

Jordan lures the organism into his pod with heat sticks given that the temperatures now on board have dropped to dangerously low levels. Meanwhile North clambers in to hers. Her pod is knocked off course when it hits debris from the earlier collision. The organism attacks Jordan while he is trying to control the trajectory of his pod. At first the pods are side by side, but with the ensuing dilemma confronting both survivors, they soon divert and head off in different directions - one bound for home, and the other for deep space.

There will be obvious comparisons here to Ridley Scott's ground breaking 'Alien' and that would be hardly surprising, especially given the imminent arrival in a couple of months of his 'Alien : Covenant' which is already gaining much publicity. At a brisk running time just on one hundred minutes or so, this film propels you into the action fairly quickly, and layers on the suspense, but there are no jump scares in this film that you might expect from its horror tag. It is well acted, well crafted, looks impressive and delivers exactly what you would expect from a stranded all alone educated and level headed expert crew battling an evil unknown alien foe that is capable of wiping out all humankind, and prepared to sacrifice themselves for the greater good in the process. We've seen films of this type for decades, and there are a few that deliver a much better result, but equally there are plenty that fall way short of 'Life'. The film works on many levels, and I enjoyed the ride, and it is certainly worth the price of your ticket.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

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