Life (2017 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Daniel Espinosa|
|Music by||Jon Ekstrand|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures
(Sony Pictures Releasing)
|Box office||$100.5 million|
Life is a 2017 American science fiction 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 on March 24, 2017, by Columbia Pictures. It received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $100 million worldwide.
The unmanned Pilgrim 7 space probe is returning from Mars to the International Space Station (ISS) with a soil sample that might contain evidence of extraterrestrial life, when it enters an asteroid field and is severely damaged.
The six-member ISS crew captures the spacecraft and exobiologist Hugh Derry revives a dormant cell from the sample; it quickly grows into a multi-celled organism that American school children name "Calvin". After an atmospheric accident in the lab, Calvin becomes dormant. Hugh revives Calvin with mild electric shocks, but Calvin immediately becomes hostile and attacks Hugh, crushing his hand. While Hugh lies unconscious from Calvin's attack, Calvin uses the electric shock tool Hugh wielded to escape his immediate enclosure. Now free in the lab room, Calvin devours a lab rat by absorbing it and grows in size. Engineer Rory Adams uses the opportunity to enter the room and rescue Hugh. However, Calvin latches onto Rory's leg and physician David Jordan locks Rory in the room to keep Calvin contained. After Rory unsuccessfully attacks Calvin with a flame thrower, Calvin enters his mouth, killing him by devouring his organs from the inside. Emerging from Rory's mouth even larger, Calvin escapes through a fire-control vent. Hugh theorizes that lack of breathable air on Mars is what kept the organism dormant.
Finding their communication with Earth cut off, due to overheating of the communication systems, mission commander Ekaterina Golovkina performs a space walk to fix the overheating. Calvin, having breached the cooling systems, attacks her outside the ISS and ruptures her spacesuit's coolant system in the process, causing toxic liquid to fill her helmet. She struggles to get back into ISS, but eventually realizes that Calvin will also be able to re-enter the space station. She refuses to open the airlock to seek help, and stops David from doing so as well. This keeps Calvin out of the station, but also causes Ekaterina to drown in her spacesuit and her body to drift away into space.
Calvin attempts to enter the station through the thrusters. The crew try to use the thrusters to prevent Calvin from entering these openings, but their attempts fail and the station loses too much fuel. The ISS enters a decaying orbit, which will eventually cause the station to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. Pilot Sho Murakami informs the crew that they need to use the remaining fuel to get back into a safe orbit, but the attempt would allow Calvin back into the station. The crew then plan to make Calvin dormant by sealing themselves into one module and venting the atmosphere from the rest of the station.
When Hugh enters cardiac arrest, the crew discover that Calvin was feeding off Hugh's leg. Having grown into a larger tentacled creature, Calvin attacks the remainder of the crew. Sho seals himself in a sleeping pod as Calvin attempts to crack the glass and consume him. David and the quarantine officer Miranda North use Hugh's corpse as bait to lure Calvin away from Sho and trap it in a module to deprive it of oxygen.
Having received a distress call prior to the damage to the ISS communication system, Earth sends a Soyuz capsule as a fail-safe plan to push the station into deep space. The capsule docks with the station and starts pushing it into deep space. Believing the situation to be a rescue mission, Sho leaves his pod and rushes to board the arriving ship, forcing open the capsule's hatch; Calvin then attacks him and the Soyuz crew. The encounter causes a docking breach that results in the capsule detaching and crashing into the ISS, killing Sho and the Soyuz pilots. David and Miranda, the only survivors, now realize that the incident has again caused them to enter a decaying orbit. Aware that Calvin could survive re-entry, David recalls two escape pods, planning to lure Calvin into one pod and pilot it into deep space, allowing Miranda to escape to the other pod.
David lures Calvin into his pod while Miranda enters her pod, creating a black box message notifying the world about her colleagues' deaths and containing instructions to destroy Calvin should he make his way to Earth. Both then launch their pods at the same time. As they make their way, one of the pods hits debris and is knocked off course. In David's pod, Calvin attacks him as he struggles to send the pod into deep space. The pods then separate; the earthbound pod performs a controlled re-entry and lands in the ocean near a boat with two Vietnamese fishermen. As they approach and look inside the pod, it is revealed to be that of David, who is encased in a web-like substance. Meanwhile, due to damage sustained from hitting the debris, Miranda's navigation system malfunctions and fails, and she screams in helpless horror over her inevitable death as her pod is sent hurtling into deep space. Back on Earth, despite David's warning not to attempt a rescue, the fisherman open the hatch as more boats arrive.
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. David Jordan, USA, ISS medical officer
- Rebecca Ferguson as Dr. Miranda North, UK, CDC quarantine officer
- Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams, USA, ISS flight 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 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 on July 19, 2016, at London's Shepperton Studios. 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 on March 24, 2017, by Columbia Pictures, 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 202 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. 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 score of 54 out of 100, based on reviews from 44 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore on opening night gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
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 LA 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."
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- LIFE: Huw Evans – VFX Supervisor – Double Negative
- LIFE: Mark Bakowski – VFX Supervisor – Industrial Light & Magic
- 'Life' Director on the Ending He Insisted Couldn't Be Changed
- 6 questions with Jon Ekstrand – composer of LIFE
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