close menu

LIFE Mixes Science and Horror…and It’s Pretty Darn Good (Review)

Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. Variations on a familiar theme are what the movie business is built on these days, and so often those feel stale and threadbare after the nine billionth time you’ve seen it. But if there’s enough of a new spin, even the most revisited plot or concept can feel fresh and new. The new film Life definitely falls into this category; we’ve seen an “uh oh, we found an alien but it’s a monster gon’ kill us” movie every year since 1952 it seems like, but this one manages to make it fresh, new, and thoroughly exciting.

What Life does that most of these other movies don’t is both make the science in it feel real and inexplicable. Plot points seem totally plausible but because they’re based on things we currently have no comprehension of—and neither do the characters—there’s not endless amounts of exposition trying to explain why and how things are happening. I’m being vague here, but it’s just because I don’t want to give away some of the finer moments of the movie’s story, which moves along at an almost breakneck pace from beginning to end.


A satellite orbiting Mars has picked up space debris and it appears that there are signs of life. A crew aboard the International Space Station (including Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds) catches the satellite as it returns to Earth and they begin carefully examining what they’ve found, which does indeed include a piece of alien cellular material. The cell responds rapidly to glucose and water and begins to grow at an alarming rate, and it’s suddenly abundantly clear that the creature—which looks and acts like nothing we’ve seen on Earth before—is predatory and could spell doom for all the people of our planet should it reach the surface, and only the ISS stands in the way.


We’ve definitely seen movies like this before, but again, it’s not what you say but how you say it. Life was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the genius scribes behind Deadpool, and just like that movie, they took a familiar genre and concept and turned it on its head. Things movie incredibly quickly, but we’re able to get to know all six main cast members through brief conversations and context clues. As is compulsory for a movie like this to work, we like all of them and don’t want to see them in peril, of which this movie has plenty.

The direction by Daniel Espinosa is what truly elevates the already smart material by having the entirety of the action take place in the weightless atmosphere of the ISS—even the camera seems to float around untethered to gravity, especially during the dizzying opening scene which appears to be a single take. The movie feels both cramped like living aboard a space station and as expansive as space itself, which is aided immeasurably by the gorgeous score by Jon Ekstrand. The music helps the movie feel like the beautifully twisted offspring of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien that it is. Seriously, get this score when it comes out; it’s amazing.


A good, solid, scary sci-fi movie that knows exactly what it is but rises above it, Life is the kind of movie we’ve been missing. Not everything needs to be a franchise, not everything needs to be connected to something else; sometimes you can just have a sciencey movie about people and creatures in space, and you’re happy it’s there.

4 out of 5 alien-finding burritos:

Images: Sony

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

What would xenomorph blood actually do?

You Made It Weird

You Made It Weird : Jennette McCurdy

Daniel Radcliffe's Penis Saves the Day in SWISS ARMY MAN Red Band Trailer

Daniel Radcliffe's Penis Saves the Day in SWISS ARMY MAN Red Band Trailer

You Made It Weird

You Made It Weird : Matt Mira