Life Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
More like Death
Daniel Espinosa's Life, billed as 'Alien meets Gravity', largely does what it says on the tin, offering a slasher-film-in-space approach which is predictable but not wholly ineffective.After the crew of the ISS accept an unmanned payload of Mars samples from a probe, their experiments with the micro-organisms they find in the samples go unsurprisingly wrong. Fast. Soon, they find themselves trapped aboard a station with an evolving entity which has determined that its own survival can only be attained through their destruction. Despite having some very pretty space shots, and frequently impressive effects, Life appears to have been constrained by some kind of budgetary restrictions, and further hampered by judicious but not always tidy editing, which leave portions of the film - particularly in the final act - inexplicably stitched-together and dangerously close to incoherent. Nevertheless it subsists on a persistent level of high tension that somehow keeps one step ahead of the frequent problems.Plot holes abound, which is an issue if you view this from the perspective of a movie that takes its science seriously, but as a monster-in-the-house Alien horror film, it's not without its merits, capitalising on the formulaic 'who will they kill next?' approach that puts anybody and everybody at risk. A trio of familiar faces headline the piece - Jake Gyllenhaal, Rogue Nation's Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds (riding his Deadpool success, and no doubted drafted back in after Espinosa's effective action-thriller Safe House, opposite Denzel Washington) - and all do their best to commit to the CG-battling frolics, investing in the increasing horrors of their predicament. The painful predictability may spoil the party for many, as well as the clunky conclusion, but it's still a pretty slick, effective space survival horror, deritative as it may be.
Picture QualityLife breaks out onto UK 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presented in 3840 x 2160p with a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, using 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. The UHD Blu-ray was reviewed on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Certainly Life looks pretty spectacular on Ultra HD Blu-ray, with the inky infinite blacks of space perfectly juxtaposed against the glimmering silvers and whites of the ISS and the crew's spacesuits, and the reflections across them creating the brightest brilliant whites against the deepest blacks. It's an HDR demo paradise - this kind of material naturally is, but Life makes the most of it.
A notable step up from its Blu-ray counterpart
Detail is almost as impressive, picking up the nuances of the claustrophobic ISS interiors, as glowing tech displays play off intricate electronics panels. Even the CG creature, however unimaginative in design, is highly detailed in terms of depiction, and the various imaginative kills, and skirmishes involving flames and oxygen candles are impressively realised. The colour scheme makes the most of its high tech space setting, and the colours are vibrant, with neon and tech displays vivid in their pop. A notable step up from its Blu-ray counterpart, the Ultra HD Blu-ray release makes the most of its 6.5K and 3.4K source material and 3.2K DI, but bolsters it with exquisite use of WCG and, in particular, HDR.
Sound QualityCas Harlow reviewed the audio using a standard 5.1-channel setup – Things are equally impressive on the aural front, with Life boasting an excellent, immersive, Dolby Atmos track founded upon a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track which is pretty good in its own right. With plenty of jump moments, the track is more than prepared to get thunderous at the drop of a hat, focusing intently on the minutiae of the ISS setting - the persistent electronic throb; the whooshing vacuum seals; the hollow zero-G scuffles to manoeuvre around - but hurtling a probe across your soundstage, or slapping an alien on your screen in a heartbeat. Dialogue remains firmly prioritised, afforded clarity even in its various helmet-muffled guises; disseminated across the frontal array, whilst effects sweep all around you; the LFE channel underpinning the whole affair, ever ready to get down and dirty in the name of cheap - but effective - scares. The score does a good job backing things up, and heightening the tension, even if it isn't particularly memorable in its own right. It's an engulfing, immersive mix, even before we look at the Atmos enhancements.
The immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack really adds to the claustrophobia
Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup – The film takes place almost entirely within the relatively confined space of the International Space Station (ISS), even if this Hollywood version is a lot bigger than the real one. As a result the use of Dolby Atmos really adds to the sense of tension and claustrophobia by using the overhead speakers to really make you feel like you're in a vulnerable tin can in orbit. The object-based mix makes full use of all the surround and overhead speakers to create a sense of environment and whilst it isn't as directional as Gravity, it does do a good job of creating a sense of environment whilst also heightening the tension and underlining the action. The dialogue is clear and focused, accompany the characters on screen, and the largely perfunctory score is weaved through the mix to enhance the action and scares. The low frequencies are used to add more impact to certain scenes but also create a feeling of being in the vacuum of space during the EVA sequences, in much the same way as Gravity. That film has clearly influenced the sound design (as well as the look) of Life but the resulting soundtrack is excellent with an immersive and highly enjoyable audio experience that, like the film itself, is fun.
ExtrasSony's UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Life doesn't offer much in the way of extras on the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc itself, but thankfully the accompanying Region Free Blu-ray still gives us access to all the available extras which, whilst not numerous, are far from bare bones.
The accompanying Blu-ray gives us access to all the extras
There are a number of Featurettes, as well as half a dozen Deleted Scenes, totalling an extra 6 minutes of additional footage (as well as 3 minutes of in-character astronaut diaries). The Featurettes aren't desperately long - each running at around 7 minutes - but thankfully are relatively focused, with the cast and crew discussing the novel zero-G environment, the biological design of the alien, and crafting a space-set thriller.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictA pretty slick, effective space survival horror, derivative as it may be
Sony's Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Life affords us excellent picture and sound, and a small but decent enough selection of extras which are disappointingly left on the accompanying Blu-ray disc. It's a solid package, and the film may be worth investigating if you like your space features and your horrors and don't hold the piece up to the superior films that it is clearly referencing.
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