Life (2017 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Daniel Espinosa|
|Music by||Jon Ekstrand|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Language||English, Vietnamese, Japanese|
|Box office||$100.5 million|
Life is a 2017 American sci-fi horror film directed by Daniel Espinosa, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds. The film follows a six-member crew of the International Space Station that uncovers the first evidence of life on Mars.
The first co-production between Skydance Media and Sony Pictures, the film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 18, 2017, and was theatrically released in the United States by Columbia Pictures on March 24, 2017. It received mixed reviews, with praise for its acting, visuals and screenplay, but some criticism for lack of originality. The film grossed $100 million worldwide.
In the near future, the unmanned Pilgrim 7 space probe returns from Mars to Earth orbit with soil samples potentially containing evidence of extraterrestrial life. The probe is captured and its samples retrieved by the International Space Station and its six-member crew. Exobiologist Hugh Derry, who is paralyzed from the waist down, revives a dormant cell from the sample, which quickly grows into a multi-celled organism that American school children name "Calvin." Hugh realizes that Calvin's cells can change their specialization, acting as muscle, neuron, and photosensory cells all at once.
An accident in the lab causes Calvin to become dormant; Hugh attempts to revive Calvin with electric shocks, but Calvin immediately becomes hostile and attacks Hugh, crushing his right hand. While Hugh lies unconscious from Calvin's attack, Calvin uses Hugh's electric shock tool to escape its enclosure; now free in the laboratory, Calvin devours a lab rat by absorbing it, growing in size. Engineer Rory Adams enters the lab to rescue Hugh; however, he is locked in by fellow crew member and physician David Jordan to keep Calvin contained, after it latches onto Rory's leg. He fights Calvin off by burning it with an exposed element from a handheld light. Rory then, unsuccessfully, attacks Calvin with an incinerator component removed from a lab station; Calvin enters his mouth, devouring his organs from the inside and killing him. Emerging from Rory's mouth even larger, Calvin escapes through a fire-control vent that has been set off.
Finding their communication with Earth cut off due to overheating of the communication systems, ISS commander Ekaterina Golovkina performs a space walk to find and fix the problem. She discovers that Calvin has breached the ISS's cooling system; soon after, Calvin attacks her, rupturing her spacesuit's coolant system in the process and causing the coolant in the system to fill her suit. She blindly makes her way back to the airlock; however, she and the crew realize that if she re-enters, Calvin will also be able to re-enter the ISS. Hence, she refuses to open the hatch and stops David from helping her do so; this keeps Calvin out of the station for the time being but also causes her to drown and die in her spacesuit.
Calvin then attempts to re-enter the station through its maneuvering thrusters. The crew try to fire the thrusters to blast Calvin away from the spacecraft, but their attempts fail, using up too much fuel and causing the ISS to enter a decaying orbit where it will burn up in Earth's atmosphere. Pilot Sho Murakami informs the crew that they need to use the station's remaining fuel to get back into a safe orbit, although this allows Calvin to re-enter the station. The crew plan to make Calvin dormant by sealing themselves into one module and venting the atmosphere from the rest of the station.
After the crew finalize preparations to do so, Hugh enters cardiac arrest. The crew then discover that Calvin has been feeding off Hugh's paralyzed leg. Calvin attacks the rest of the crew; Sho seals himself in a sleeping pod. As Calvin tries to break its glass, David and quarantine officer Miranda North use Hugh's corpse as bait to lure Calvin away from Sho and trap it in another module, in order to deprive it of oxygen. Having received a distress call prior to the damage to the ISS's communication system, Earth sends a Soyuz spacecraft to the station as a fail-safe plan to push the station into deep space. Believing the Soyuz to be on a rescue mission for the ISS crew, Sho leaves his pod and moves to board it, forcing open its hatch; Calvin then attacks the Soyuz astronauts and Sho, wrecking the craft's docking mechanisms, resulting in the capsule crashing into the ISS, killing Sho and the Soyuz cosmonauts, and causing the ISS's orbit to decay again.
The only two survivors, David and Miranda, aware that Calvin could survive re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, plan for David to lure Calvin into one of the two escape pods attached to the ISS and for David to manually pilot the pod into deep space, isolating Calvin, and allowing Miranda to return to Earth in the other pod. David manages to lure Calvin into his pod, while Miranda enters her pod; as they simultaneously undock their pods from the ISS, one of the pods hits debris and is damaged, veering off course. In David's pod, Calvin attacks him as he struggles to manually pilot the pod; in Miranda's pod, she records a black box message in case of her death during re-entry informing the world of her colleagues' deaths and not to trust Calvin nor any extraterrestrial life from Mars as well as to destroy Calvin at any cost should it make its way to Earth.
The two pods separate, one earthbound, the other spiraling away from Earth. The earthbound pod lands in the ocean; two nearby Vietnamese fishermen approach it. As they look into the pod, it is revealed to be David's, with the astronaut now restrained by Calvin, after it has grown to fill the pod compartment. Meanwhile, Miranda's pod's navigation system fails due to damage sustained from the debris, sending her flying away from Earth out of control, much to her horror. On Earth, despite David's attempts to warn them, the fishermen open the pod's hatch, as more boats arrive on the scene.
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. David Jordan, USA, ISS medical officer. Gyllenhaal took inspiration from his grandfather, who was a surgeon.
- Rebecca Ferguson as Dr. Miranda North, UK, CDC quarantine officer.
- Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams, USA, ISS engineer.
- Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Murakami, Japan, ISS systems engineer.
- Ariyon Bakare as Dr. Hugh Derry, UK, ISS exobiologist.
- Olga Dihovichnaya as Ekaterina Golovkina, Russia, ISS Mission Commander.
On November 18, 2015, Deadline Hollywood reported that Daniel Espinosa would direct a film set in space and titled Life, from a script from Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, which Skydance Media financing and producing, with David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Bonnie Curtis, and Julie Lynn. Paramount Pictures was circling to handle the distribution rights to the film, though the deal was not confirmed. On January 28, 2016, Rebecca Ferguson came on board to star in the film, and Ryan Reynolds subsequently joined, on February 16, 2016. On March 10, 2016, Jake Gyllenhaal was cast in the film. On March 15, 2016, Sony Pictures signed on to handle the worldwide distribution rights and co-finance the film, with Skydance. On June 23, 2016, Hiroyuki Sanada was cast to play one of the members of the International Space Station crew, and on July 19, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Olga Dihovichnaya and Ariyon Bakare were also cast in the film, playing other crew members. One scene in the trailer for the film features a recycled shot from the 2007 film, Spider-Man 3.
Principal photography on the film began at London's Shepperton Studios on July 19, 2016. To emulate the lack of gravity, the actors were suspended by wires that wound up erased in post-production. Most of the visual effects were handled by Double Negative, aside from the eight-minute long take that opens the movie, done by Industrial Light & Magic using the ISS model sculpted by Double Negative. That scene was described by Daniel Espinosa as "the inverse version of Gravity. Gravity looks at the vastness of space through the oner. I wanted to look at the claustrophobia." Espinosa said that Life was "shot to make a science fiction movie that ties into this other great American genre, which is noir", with the death of the most charismatic character that seems to be the protagonist—using Psycho as an example, Espinosa explained that "Ryan [Reynolds] became my Janet Leigh"—and a downer ending.
Composer Jon Ekstrand wrote his sixth score while working with Espinosa. Ekstrand aimed to create an "atonal-horror score with some melodic elements", mostly focused on orchestral music while opening with "more melodic and classical cinematic" tones to not give away the horror trappings early on. Espinosa specifically told Ekstrand to seek a sound reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann, with some influence from György Ligeti to reference the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Life was released by Columbia Pictures on March 24, 2017, after being moved up from its previously announced release date of May 26, 2017, to avoid competition with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Alien: Covenant, the latter of which had moved up its release date from August 4, 2017 to May 19, 2017. Life had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 18, 2017.
Life grossed $30.2 million in the United States and Canada and $70.3 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $100.5 million, against a production budget of $58 million.
In North America, Life opened alongside Power Rangers, CHiPs, and Wilson, and was projected to gross $12–17 million from 3,146 theaters during its opening weekend. It ended up debuting to $12.6 million, finishing 4th at the box office, behind Beauty and the Beast, Power Rangers, and Kong: Skull Island. In its second weekend, the film grossed $5.5 million, dropping to 8th at the box office.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 67% based on 237 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Life is just thrilling, well-acted, and capably filmed enough to overcome an overall inability to add new wrinkles to the trapped-in-space genre." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 54 out of 100, based on reviews from 44 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported just 48% of audience members gave the film a "definite recommend".
Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal said of the film, "For all its flashy trappings, weighty ruminations and zero-gravity floatings aboard the International Space Station, Life turns out to be another variant of Alien, though without the grungy horror and grim fun. In space no one can hear you snore." Describing the theme of outer space, Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times said "As the astronauts contend with airlocks, busted equipment and escape pods, it becomes increasingly difficult to pretend that this isn't territory where more inventive screenwriters and stronger visual stylists have gone before." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone faulted not the scenes but the performances, saying there was "not a single actor in Life who manages to fill in and humanize the blank space where a character should be."
Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post approved of these character flaws, saying the "conflicting dynamics of their individual temperaments lead occasionally to poor decision-making. While this may be bad for their health, it's great for the movie," adding that "Life has cool effects, real suspense and a sweet twist. It ain't rocket science, but it does what it does well—even, one might say, with a kind of genius." Richard Brody of The New Yorker complimented this balance of character and plot from the director, saying "Espinosa's sense of drama is efficient, familiar, and narrow; if there's a moral sentiment to his direction, it's precisely in the limits that he imposes on the movie's dose of pain and gore." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times opined that Life, with a mise-en-scène of the International Space Station, was "a wonderful setting for a meal we've tasted before," adding that it is "undeniably satisfying to be in the hands of a persuasive director who knows how to slowly ratchet up the tension to a properly unnerving level."
Empire summarized their review as "Part Alien, part Gravity, just not as good as either of them. But Life whips along at a decent pace and deploys enough engaging action sequences to make it work."
|List of accolades|
|Award / film festival||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|16th Visual Effects Society Awards||Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project||Tom Edwards, Chaitanya Kshirsagar, Satish Kuttan, Paresh Dodia for "The ISS"||Nominated|||
|44th Saturn Awards||Best Science Fiction Film||Life||Nominated|||
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