Up until this week, I wasn’t particularly interested in Life, the latest film from Daniel Espinosa of Safe House (yes!) and Child 44 (no!). The post-Gravity vacuum has allowed for plenty of indistinct, impersonal sci-fi thrillers to get the greenlight and we’ve honestly barely seen the tip of the iceberg in 2016. A new one from the guy who directed Easy Money didn’t exactly ring my bell, but then I saw the trailer. Life doesn’t seem to have the grand faux-political pomposity or the equally aggravating sentimentalism that its ilk has begun to feast on and looks like a simple, effective sci-fi thriller at first glance, and that’s for the better. Beyond the trailer, however, we haven’t learned much about the movie, which is a good thing for the most part, but during a discussion with our very own Steve Weintraub in anticipation of the release of the Tom Ford thriller Nocturnal Animals, Life star Jake Gyllenhaal revealed that the entire movie would take place in zero gravity. Here’s what Gyllenhaal said specifically:
“I think Life is going to take people by surprise, in that it’s this horror film in space but it is really a psychological thriller that I didn’t know it could be that Daniel Espinosa made it into. There’s all the elements that you love to see, like a popcorn movie, but he has helped really interesting actors develop characters and relationships in the midst of that. So, you have a lot of different waves going at once. It’s really entertaining and it’s all in zero gravity and that’s really cool.”
Much of that smacks of simply talking up a movie without giving anything about the central plot away, which is his job, but the zero gravity element speaks to the small, intuitive decisions in stories that can be highlighted or not by a director looking for visual ideas to use to bring a story to life. There’s been some evidence, though not consistent, that Espinosa has that kind of intuition, but one director who has that kind of instinct for movies is Bong Joon-ho. The South Korean master behind films like Snowpiercer and The Host has created exactly four masterworks thus far in his career, and he’s seemingly almost done with his fifth, the tremendously anticipated Okja, which will premiere on Netflix. Before speaking about Life, Gyllenhaal, who also appears in Joon-ho’s film, took time to give his opinion of the movie. Here’s what he said:
“Okja is mind-blowing. Bong [Joon-ho] does fascinating work. I think he’s gone back a little bit. Taking Snowpiecer and a movie like Mother and The Host and bringing them all together in one movie. I think he’s taken that independent spirit, put it in this massive idea. It’s gorgeous and insane and moving. It’s really this children-adults movie, almost like in the vein of Pan’s Labyrinth, but Bong’s. Tilda Swinton’s in it and that’s enough, right? It’s somewhat Korean and somewhat English. It’s really cool.”
Again, one can almost hear the PR people telling him not to give anything away. Still, at this point, any news about Okja is going to be a point of interest for those who genuinely love international and domestic cinema. Nevermind the fact that he brings out the big guns and decides to compare the movie to Guillermo del Toro‘s beloved masterpiece, which now turns anticipation into pure, undiluted impatience. If Joon-ho’s movie is even half as good as what Gyllenhaal is suggesting here, 2017 may be the year Netflix’s original movies truly breakout, beyond even the estimable push for Ava DuVernay‘s incendiary 13th. Fingers crossed, everyone.
Look for Steve’s full interview with Gyllenhaal next week.