Life 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Six astronauts stationed at an international space station receive a sample from Mars that turns out to contain life. After poking and prodding, the organism starts to grow and before long, the scientists realize it’s not a friendly lifeform. Once the organism (named Calvin) takes shape, the crew find themselves in a fight for their life as they try to escape Calvin and his alarming ability to grow and learn from his surroundings.
One of the biggest things going for LIFE is that it doesn’t waste any time. The audience knows they’re going to stumble on an alien lifeform and that lifeform will eventually turn on the crew. Director Daniel Espinosa doesn’t beat around the bush and after a short introduction, he thrusts the audience into the main conflict. That turned out to be a good decision and prevented the audience from getting bored while we waited for something we knew was coming anyway.
Aside from the random first-person view from Calvin, Espinosa (SAFE HOUSE) does a fine job directing. We get some nice shots of space that reminded me of GRAVITY and the tension and suspense in the film feels natural as opposed to forced. These astronauts are truly in danger, so we didn’t need any quick edits or false setup. LIFE is void of character development, but this isn’t the type of film that needs much. We learn that one of them has a newborn baby and the other was in the military and that’s about all we need. The point is to get back to the alien-attacking-human action and for the most part, Espinosa obliges and gives us what we want.
LIFE is a film we’ve seen before and I think everyone involved knows this, which is why so much hype has been made about the “twist” ending. Let me make it clear and say that there is no “twist” ending and if anything, the ending is telegraphed well in advance and it only seems confusing thanks to some editing and camera work. With that out of the way, there’s nothing unique or original about LIFE, but it succeeds thanks to its severely overqualified cast. Ryan Reynolds shows up to play Ryan Reynolds, but he carries the film in the beginning and humanizes the astronauts to get the audience to care about them. Jake Gyllenhaal closes things out with his trademarked “I’m really bummed, but I’m still here” looks. Rebecca Ferguson rightfully got attention for her work in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION, but she doesn’t do much in LIFE. Her job is to play the straight-laced scientist to Ryan’s joker and Jake’s downer, which she does very well.
LIFE is a decent addition to the sci-fi/horror genre, but it’s not groundbreaking by any means. The stars involved will attract an audience, and rightfully so, but anyone hoping for an updated ALIEN is going to be disappointed.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: I’m always grateful when a very dark film like LIFE is released on 4K, even if it is an upconvert from a 2K source. The dark scenes in LIFE look much better on 4K than on Blu-ray, thanks in large part to the added color depth from the HDR. The end showdown was almost entirely dark, but on 4K, you can make out the backgrounds and details thanks to the visible shades of gray. The brighter scenes also look better, specifically any shot of the outside of the space station or of Earth. That said, there is a bit of texture to the film, which feels a little out of place in a movie like this, but I have to assume that’s a decision Espinosa made. While LIFE may not be as visually impressive as some other UHD’s out there, it is notable for the improvements over the Blu-ray, making this an easy recommend for fans of the film.
Audio: Surprisingly, LIFE isn’t the kind of film that utilizes the surround channels like you’d think. However, the included Dolby Atmos track is extremely efficient utilizing the surround channels when necessary. As Rory was chasing down Calvin in the quarantine room, I actually got a chill up my spine hearing Calvin crawl around the ceiling.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
Deleted Scenes (5:49): Six scenes in all, a couple of which feature Ryan Reynolds, but none of them make much of an impact.
Claustrophobic Terror: Creating A Thriller in Space (7:28): Of all the featurettes, this one is the most basic, featuring interviews from the cast and crew about why they liked the story and what drove them to it.
Life: In Zero G (6:54): This featurette focuses on how they filmed the zero gravity scenes and the challenges they had during filming.
The Art and Reality of Calvin (7:07): Of course, the alien (Calvin) gets his own featurtte where everyone talks about his design and his basis in science.
Astronaut Diaries (3:00): This really could have been its own deleted scene as it features the actors in character talking to a video diary.