Movie Review: “Life”
Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare
Daniel Espinosa’s “Life” is a lean, mean studio B-movie that knows how to move. Right from the start, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick don’t waste time. The sci-fi thriller’s simplicity and brevity is one of its many strengths, in addition to some compelling performances, a genuinely nasty alien and a third act that finishes strong.
Calvin is the name given to the film’s antagonist, a deadly little organism (and the first sign of life discovered on Mars) that grows larger and more lethal over the course of the story. The alien wreaks havoc aboard an International Space Station inhabited by a team of scientists, including Dr. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Katerine Golovkin (Olga Dihovichnaya). They’re all given personalities at an extremely efficient pace, so once the number of crew members begins to decline, it doesn’t feel like candy being tossed aside. The stakes are monumental in “Life,” and you can definitely feel it as the crew floats around in zero gravity trying to figure out how to kill this thing before it finds a way of reaching (and destroying) Earth.
“Life” is a pretty straightforward genre flick, but it isn’t thin. In fact, the simplicity that Reese and Wernick have achieved with movies like “Zombieland,” “Deadpool” and now “Life” is exhilarating in this day and age of bloated blockbusters. There’s not a single ounce of filler in these three films. They pick up and start running immediately, which Espinosa communicates in a lengthy opening take that is sometimes dazzling and sometimes a little obvious and strained. It’s the only scene where you’re aware of the filmmaker’s hand, but the sequence still has its moments. With the rest of the movie, Espinosa serves up an increasingly tense experience.
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Movie Review: “The Girl on the Train”
Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Allison Janney
Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train” instantly drew comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” thanks to the use of multiple viewpoints, but let’s make something clear: as enjoyable as “Train” was to read, it doesn’t come close to plumbing the emotional depths that Flynn wrote into the truly psychotic Amy Dunne. At the same time, this works in the favor of the film version of “The Girl on the Train.” Erin Cressida Wilson’s script puts a higher percentage of the source material into the film (the one thing book fanatics complain about the most), and the story’s main obstacle (recovering a lost memory) is a tried and true film device. Ask anyone who saw “Jason Bourne” earlier this year.
Films, however, reveal things that books do not, and that is what prevents “The Girl on the Train” from hitting the next level. It is competently made, with some outstanding performances, but the book is capable of concealing things that the film cannot. And with that, we will say no more.
Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a sad, drunk divorcee, taking the train five days a week to a job she no longer has. The train takes her by the house she once lived in, the one her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) now shares with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby daughter. A couple of houses down, Rachel sees a younger couple that seems blissfully in love. Recognizing that they have what she’s lost, she becomes obsessed with them, giving them fake names and occupations while she spies on them for a few seconds each day. One day, Rachel sees what appears to be a betrayal on a member of the happy couple, and when one of them disappears shortly after, she offers what she thinks she knows to the police, only to discover that in doing so, she has made herself the prime suspect.
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