A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Life is a sci-fi/horror movie about a killer alien creature loose on board a satellite. There's lots of violence and tense, scary stuff. Many characters are killed; one is torn apart from the inside, with globs of floating blood, and another drowns in fluid. A lab rat is also destroyed in a gruesome way, and a man's hand is smashed and broken. Language is strong, with several uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "'s--t," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). One character watches a video feed of his child being born, though nothing graphic is shown (someone makes a joke about "who's the father?"). Overall, it's too intense for younger or more sensitive teens, but slightly older viewers may enjoy the well-crafted tension. Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds headline a cast that's diverse overall, with smart, realistic characters.
What's the story?
In LIFE, six astronauts are aboard a satellite orbiting Earth as part of the Mars Pilgrim Mission. They retrieve a probe from Mars that contains a microscopic life form from the Red Planet. Biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) excitedly studies it, changes atmospheric conditions, and watches it grow at an alarming rate. Then it attacks and escapes, wounding his hand. Another crew member jumps in to intervene, but the creature, called "Calvin," kills him. It's up to the rest of the crew -- including Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), and Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) -- to try to contain the monster. If they can't, they'll never be able to return to Earth.
Is it any good?
This sci-fi creature feature doesn't really do anything we haven't seen before, but its execution -- including smooth camerawork and tense editing and music -- makes it reasonably gripping. In Life, director Daniel Espinosa glides his camera along the corridors of the satellite as if it, too, were weightless, and the crisp editing and the intense score provide plenty of nervous suspense. It's not as dark and shadowy as the similar Alien, but the lights are used to interesting effect.
The characters are also interesting. Not only do they represent a diverse cross-section of cultures and sexes, but they're treated like smart people. No one wanders off alone to check something out, and no one splits up. Generally, the movie avoids the kinds of cliches the genre routinely falls back on. Plus, no one is an invincible hero stepping up to save the day. Even the creature is given credit for being clever -- a worthy adversary. Overall, Life is pretty basic, and it's a familiar story, but any story can feel fresh again when it's told well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Life's violence. How gruesome is it? How much blood is shown? How does the movie use violence to generate suspense? Does exposure to violent media make kids more aggressive?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies/monster movies?
How did you feel about the diverse cast? Did they feel like real people? Were any of them stereotypes?
Do the characters show courage? What makes someone a hero? What role does sacrifice play in the movie?
What did you learn from the movie about the International Space Station and its history and goals? How does it encourage collaboration across nations?
- In theaters: March 24, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: June 20, 2017
- Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds
- Director: Daniel Espinosa
- Studios: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and aliens
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.