Life Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews this sci-fi horror thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station that discover a rapidly evolving life form, that threatens the crew, and all life on Earth.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

98

Details:

Studio and Year: Sony Pictures – 2017
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 104 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller/Horror

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Czech, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Russian, French, Portuguese, Thai, Turkish, English, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, German Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Swedish, Spanish, Thai, Turkish
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Music by: Jon Ekstrand
Written by: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: June 20, 2017

“We Were Better Off Alone”



My Take:

Life tells the story of the six-member crew of the International Space Station that is on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As the crew begins to conduct research, their methods end up having unintended consequences and the life form proves more intelligent than anyone ever expected.

I am most definitely a fan of the sci-fi horror thriller genre and eagerly awaited Life’s arrival on my doorstep. The trailer looked interesting, but didn’t contain anything that led me to believe that the film had anything new to bring to the genre table, but that was fine. Conceptually speaking the narrative is straight forward, setting up an international space team, on mission aboard the space station, to intercept a probe, on return from Mars, that could be carrying proof of life. At 104 minutes, there isn’t much time for deep character development, so things pretty jump right in, after brief introductions.

I liked the handling of the relevant, but thin, details about who, what, and where. Things unravel pretty quickly and soon it’s evident, who will be among those left to contend with “Calvin” the name given to the life form. What you have in between is a series of formulaic encounters that draw a clear line toward the film’s final moment, if you pay attention. That’s not a criticism, but based upon the escalating events, it’s inevitable. Life had ample suspense, set up around a decent story, but it would have benefitted from better editing, more time to flesh out the storyline, and more development of the characters.

Be that as it may, I watched it with my wife and we both enjoyed it. Life isn’t a wholly gratifying sci-fi horror thriller, but it delivers an entertaining and engaging film experience that makes for a great popcorn flick.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Life comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 58 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible) sound that has an average bitrate of 4.2 Mbps.

For its presentation in Ultra HD, Life was derived from a mix of 3.4K and 6.5K sources, and rendered from a 2K DI. With the limited exposure to Ultra HD sourced from 4K Digital Intermediates we are left to judge based upon what we have seen thus far.

This is an excellent Ultra HD presentation that looks great on my large screen. This is a sci-fi story, set in the future, that features elements that make use of rich color, boldly applied contrast, and a distinctive visual aesthetic. With a discernible increase in detail and emboldened highlights the UHD image appears noticeably sharper and vivid when compared to the 1080p version. The use of sepia aboard the space station is beautifully reproduced, while whites and grays appear gradational and vibrant. The wide-angle shots of the space station and Earth look terrific, as the lustrous color and added dimension in depth is appreciable. Fleshtones are on the pallid side, while appearing predominantly lifelike, and falling in line with the film’s aesthetic.

The rendering of detail is excellent, as the finest minutia in physical features, clothing, or the variety of textures seen on the ships interiors are reproduced with stark realism. The application of high dynamic range is among the best I have seen. The wide color gamut and crisp, bright, imagery, enrich the sense of realism when looking at differing environs, and artificial lighting aboard the space station.

Shot digitally, this rendering makes the most of its original elements, which are excellent. Comparing this to the 1080p version the difference is quite noticeable. The beginning of chapter 4 Rory is repairing a device on the station. The film incorporates several close-up camera shots that highlight the presentation’s superb rendering of detail, natural looking color and excellent dynamic range. This scene is among them, as you can delineate the textures on the metal objects, as they are illuminated by the fluorescent lighting. When the camera pans back, the shot of Hugh’s clothing, skintones and facial features is incredible lifelike. Watching this same scene in 1080p. the image appears almost flat by comparison.

The Ultra HD presentation is among the rare few where I have found that it stands head and shoulders above its 1080p counterpart. Ultra HD renderings like this should give those contemplating the switch to an Ultra HD capable set up the nudge they need.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos mix I found it to be of the active variety that made steady use of the platform. Its use of sounds placed above is a mix of atmospherics, music, and discrete effects. This is done well and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Over the course of the film there are various sequences (such as the capturing of out of control capsule in chapter one) where environmental sounds, and discrete objects are mixed to differing locations in the sound field, adding a head turning element to the viewing experience.

The large set piece in chapter 13, involving the hatch breach, lights up the room as flying debris, ambient effects, and near field objects rotate, and revolve around the soundstage from both above and at ear level. As an aside, I noticed that low frequency affects had a bit more weight to them, when compared to the DTS-HD 7.1 mix on the Blu-ray. This is an involving immersive sound mix, that complimented the source material.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity:
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  • Fleshtones:
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Audio: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:
  • DSU Rating * (non-rated element):

 

Life comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.3 Mbps.

This film utilizes a stylized visual design that has a limited color scheme that works aesthetically well for the subject matter. The color range is limited to shades of dark blue, gray and black with splashes of crimson red, and sepia tones. Warm golden accents are used to break up the film’s monochromatic essence. Uneven light and shading are prevalent. Fleshtones are bronzy and lacking in tonal variety, however this appears to fall in line with the film’s visual aesthetic. Contrast is spot on which empowers whites and grays without washing away detail. Whites are snappy and crisp and grays are multi-staged and layered. Blacks are dynamic and gradationally revealing, and shadow detail is excellent. The use of CGI softened some of the background elements during wide-angle pans, but I never found it to be excessive or distracting. Overall, I found the quality of the video to be solid. It wasn’t always razor sharp, but it was cleanly rendered with plenty of subtle refinement that increased the perception of fine detail. Blacks were dynamic and gradationally revealing and shadow detail was just as strong.

The Blu-ray version of Life contains a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, rather than a Dolby Atmos mix, which is found only on the UHD version. This is a strange choice, leaving those without an Ultra HD capable set up, but with immersive sound capabilities out in the cold. Hopefully future Ultra HD Combo Packs from Sony will combine the two. Be that as it may, I found much to enjoy with the soundtrack. This lossless soundtrack is excellent and features wide dynamic range, superlative clarity, and high-level detail. Dialog is cleanly rendered, sounding sibilant free, and well balanced within the soundstage. Front and rear channel imaging is excellent. This draws out both large and small sound elements and allows their directional correlation based upon the onscreen events to be definable.

The music score, coupled with the integration of discrete, and atmospheric surround sound effects, plays an intricate role in the surround mix. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues, and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is spot on. The atmospheric effects associated with the various acoustic environments aboard the space station sound engagingly real. Low frequency effects are applied authoritatively and underscore the audio presentation with aplomb. Its palpable presence is never in question as it renders refined bass quality that kicks nicely and extends deep enough to engage the room.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Life Ultra HD Blu-ray
    Disc 2: Life Blu-ray
  • 6 Deleted Scenes
  • Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space – 7 minute featurette
  • Life: In Zero G – 7 minute featurette
  • Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin – 7 minute featurette
  • Astronaut Diaries – 3 minutes
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

Life is an entertaining sci-fi horror thriller that, with a bit more depth to its script, and better editing, could have been a fully rounded film experience. It comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Combo Pack from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment that features top notch Ultra HD video, engaging lossless surround sound, including an engaging Dolby Atmos immersive mix, and a middling, but worthwhile supplemental set. Life is easily worth the price of a rental on Blu-ray, but for those with an Ultra HD capable system, it might just be worth picking up.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package