Archive for the ‘Daniel Espinosa’ Category

Goodbye Moon, Goodbye Stars

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare

What made director Ridley Scott’s The Martian such an enjoyable film was the emotional tension between Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney stuck on Mars and the ground crew desperately trying to return him safely back to earth. This emotional tension is lacking in Safe House director Daniel Espinosa’s sci-fi thriller Life, which has an unimaginative title.

This sci fi thriller Life should not be confused with the 2015 Anton Corijn film Life about James Dean or the earlier film 1999 Eddie Murphy film also called Life. Seriously, couldn’t the screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick think up a more imaginative title?

Except for the onscreen chemistry between Rebecca Ferguson (Florence Foster Jenkins) as Dr Miranda North and Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) playing Dr David Jordan on board the doomed International Space Station circling above Earth, Life relies too heavily on the storyline of Ridley Scott’s Alien film franchise without delivering any of the inherent shock value.

Life centres on a multinational group of astronauts who inexplicably bring back a living organism from Mars which is initially carefully nurtured by Hugh Derry played by Ariyon Bakare. The organism is affectionately nicknamed Calvin and only through a brief sequence shot in Time Square in New York featuring children looking forward to humanity’s future with this alien life form still supposedly being cultivated safely on the space station above our planet.

Soon things go horribly wrong as Calvin turns into a malevolent starfish which transforms into a bloodsucking slimy creature intent on destroying all humans on board the spaceship. As each of the crew members starts dying off, Life tries to keep the visual intensity going with some superb camera work yet fails to deliver an original storyline.

Set almost entirely on board the spaceship, Life is as bland as the visually impressive Morten Tyldum film Passengers. Both films just fail to engage although at least with Passengers the sexy chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence was far more palpable.

Daniel Espinosa’s Life is watchable viewing held together by a brilliant twist at the end but unfortunately the story line is nothing original even lacking in orchestrated suspense. Ultimately, Life suffers from falling under the shadow of a far more superior horror film, Ridley Scott’s 1979 smash hit Alien featuring a breath taking performance by Sigourney Weaver as Ripley.

A watchable but not brilliant film, Life unfortunately succumbs to an overpopulated film genre which has been outstripped by the Alien franchise and more recently Alphonso Cuaron’s Oscar winning Gravity.

Despite the inventive camera work, Espinosa’s Life gets a rating of 6.5 out of 10.

 

 

No One is Safe in the Mother City

Safe House

Rogue agents run riot in Cape Town

Taking its cue largely from the Bourne Trilogy and heavily influenced by the filmic style of Paul Greengrass who directed United 93 and The Bourne Supremacy, Safe House pairs a superb Denzel Washington with Ryan Reynolds in a gritty CIA Action thriller set mainly in and around Cape Town. Washington plays hard-edged rogue agent Tobin Frost who after escaping a shootout in downtown Cape Town, calmly walks into the American consulate seeking refuge. Reminiscent of Denzel Washington’s Oscar winning role in Training Day, this is a similar story of an experienced agent teaching a young junior level CIA officer all the tricks of the murky world of international espionage, replacing the Los Angeles crime world for the counter-espionage exotic Cape Town while Reynolds in his first action-role since the luke-warm super hero film Green Lantern is surprisingly brilliant as Matt Weston, stationed in Cape Town and whose primary job is to run a covert CIA safe house in the middle of the Mother City.

Safe House directed by Swedish born director Daniel Espinosa is a gritty, violent and action-packed edge of your seat thriller with some stunning car chases and even more daring and bloody fight scenes notably in the Greenpoint Stadium and Langa township sequences.

Providing counterbalance to the action occurring in a foreign city, is the scenes at Langley, Virginia, CIA headquarters with Oscar Nominee Vera Farmiga playing Catherine Linklater and Weston’s boss, David Barlow played by Brendan Gleesan who both head down to the Western Cape, South Africa to try and catch up with the rogue agent and his younger guardian, while the intelligence boss played by Sam Shepard remains set on containing  the truth.

The film style is realistic, gritty and tinged with a murky tone, influenced by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Swedish version painting the usually glamourous Cape Town as a shady international city filled with foreign operatives from dodgy Nicaraguans to rogue MI6 agents, but definitely highlighting the city’s strategic importance on the global stage.

The pairing of Washington and Reynolds works beautifully and the latter holds his own as an ambitious CIA agent who is eager to achieve his own ambitions, whether by force or deceit. Worth watching!

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