Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On Home Video: Daniel Espinosa's LIFE proves to be everything the latest Alien movie wasn't

This is just a quick heads-up that if you're looking for a genuinely scary, suspenseful, smart and swift sci-fi thriller featuring an extraterrestrial who makes the recent "alien" look like the rather dumb-and-ugly monster it is, take a gamble on LIFE, from Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa (don't worry, the film's in English), which is definitely this up-and-down director's best work to date.

Cleverly written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the movie pays good attention to everything from plotting, pacing and surprise to creating characters you care about while filling you in on (some of) the science of what's possible (or not) regarding space travel.

The movie's not perfect but it is so much better than anything else like it in a long while (particularly the recent and execrable Alien: Covenant, which offered Michael Fassbender and very little else) that the fact that it was so lukewarmly embraced by both critics and audiences seems a pretty clear statement of how dumb and undeserving both have now become.

I won't go into plot, except to say that, yes, the movie does the very same thing as the Alien franchsie and other space-travel-cum-monster movies: maroon a crew with the monster on board and then let things "work out." Yet how Life works them out is so much better than the other examples (save for the original Alien) that you'll be alternately on the edge of your seat and actually moved and amazed by it all. (And surprised and shaken by the ending.)

With Jake Gyllenhaal (three photos up) in fine form, Rebecca Ferguson (two photos above) supporting and Ryan Reynolds (above and below) again choosing to do a role that surprises in several ways, the entire cast is first-rate. And, yes, we lose some of them along the way, but how and why they expire is done with such novelty and feeling that this makes most other films in the genre look paltry indeed.

From Columbia Pictures/Sony and running a just-about-right 104 minutes, the movie hit Netflix DVDs yesterday (and is now -- this update comes two days later -- available on Redbox). In any case, if you're an intelligent fan of this genre, don't miss it. Click here and scroll down to view options for purchase or rental.

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