Monday, April 10, 2017

Movie Review: LIFE

Aboard the International Space Station, a team of six astronauts is preparing for the approach of a probe carrying an extremely valuable treasure: a cell of alien life. When the scientists try to give life to the cell, things seem to go smoothly until the alien life form becomes conscious and terrifying events start to unfold.

Not even the fact that I am a huge Sci-Fi and Horror fan, nor my love for the actors involved could manage to save this generic, bland piece of directing that left me utterly uninterested and bored. This feature is an endeavor in terrible character development and embarrassing storytelling that manages to arouse fascination only in small components of an otherwise messy picture.

As much as I am against turning hate towards makers of film, which should always be appreciated as a work of craftsmanship and effort, I am sadly over Daniel Espinosa. Once is alright, twice try again, three times I'm out. He has directed some of the worst and most soulless films of the last years and he has consistently demonstrated to me an inability to control plot or develop character.

This isn't meant to be a hate letter towards anybody or anything, rather just an analysis of what bad filmmaking is. Lets starts with the camera, possibly the worst part of the picture. Espinosa's camera does not tell a story, it describes a situation. I mean you have possibly the best cinematographer in the world (for me at least), Seamus McGarvey, and you manage to screw that up. There is no philosophy behind the camera. It is just placed around stuff and looks at the situation from the most generic points of views possible. There is no style, no over arching theme given to it. Maybe a couple of repeated patterns, but even then, they are used in different situations and at that point I did not know what to think anymore. The aimlessness of the camera is just enough to take away any grit or interest to this film, it looks like it could have been directed by a computer. There is no rhythm to the shots, no artistic beauty to be taken from a pantheon of images that are almost always in the wrong place.

This has many effects on the movie. Character and plot are a fantasy. Even with only six characters, Espinosa struggles to give any of them any relevance. Jake Gyllenhal manages to be the only one to emerge with something, but even then, characters are always and only talking and explaining the plot to one another. There isn't half of a decent and genuine conversation, every single scene is exposition, it almost becomes mind numbing. And this is even worse once you realize that they are explaining the plot, but you are not understanding it. I was lost by the feature in at least four points. I went to see this with a friend and we had to feed each other almost constantly on what was going on because we didn't understand it. There is no order or hierarchy in how plot points are presented to you (all due to the camera, again!). They introduce one plot point early on, then they take it back one hour later, or they do the exact opposite, or even worse, there is a button that solves the problem. Story and plot are literally put all over the place.

One could also go on to explain how many things do not make any kind of sense: the plot holes are everywhere, the logic in this is ridiculous and worst of all the mythology established behind the alien life-from is broken at every further step in its evolution. Then the score, god the score of this film is insanely bad. It is loud and overdone, it doesn't let moments breathe, it's just big drums and heavy music in the moments of tension and high strings in the moments of emotion, my ears were bleeding by the end.

As much as this is a disaster from any kind of emotional or visual point of view, I can give it little moments of premise magic, meaning that there are some scenes, mostly early on because then it goes on a train-wreck, that engaged me in the questions they were presenting. The alien life form works really well at the start and the scenes of the sessions with it were definitely the best the movie had to offer. Moreover, none of the blame can be shifted to the actors, they are all top tier talents and show it here. None of them give a bad performance, they are just surrounded by generic shots that give no context to their performance.

Life is a really bad film and I rarely find myself saying that. I wish all the success in the world to Daniel Espinosa, but after this I am out of seeing any film of his from now on. Unfortunately, his particular vision is one that sits really badly with me and always leaves my mind numbed by the blandness of the visuals and consequently of the feature itself. 

James' Score: 4/10

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