“Life” Falls Short Of Its Director’s Ambition Despite Strong Robert Pattinson Performance

Talented filmmaker Anton Corbijn sets his goals high with Life, a true-life tale about freelance photographer Dennis Stock seeking to snap 1955s promising star James Dean. Robert Pattinson delivers an excellent performance…

Life, film review - Top 10 FilmsRobert Pattinson stars in this biographical drama of the ambitious freelance photographer, Dennis Stock, seeking to secure a photo shoot with 1955s most promising actor. This actor is none other than James Dean, played with a unique sensuality by Dane DeHaan.

It is clear to see why this role appealed to Pattinson as the character is both appalled and undeniably drawn by success. Pattinson is the main reason to seek this film out, he has purposefully chosen off-kilter and challenging work post his Twilight heart-throb years. He effectively portrays a tender fragility and professional ambition that sidelines personal relationships. Pattinson’s performance makes you forget you are watching a performance, you only see the character, unlike DeHaan’s James Dean.

Dane DeHaan is the more playful character against Pattinson’s central straight man. He purrs his lines as a tortured but self-aware artist. However, you are constantly aware you are watching a performance, almost a caricature of James Dean. Like Pattinson’s character he desires fame and success but is deplored by the Hollywood machine. The Hollywood machine is personified by the reliable Ben Kingsley as Jack Warner. The stereotypical Hollywood studio boss that recognises Dean’s star potential but struggles to make the artist tow the studio line and honour his press commitments. Meanwhile, Pattison is mentored by Joel Edgerton’s Magnum photographer, John Morris, who often gives his self-righteous belief the required grounding.

Robert Pattinson: Life, film review - Top 10 Films

The film concentrates on the two young men whose ambition takes them out of their depth producing mixed results for the plot and the film as a whole. The quest for James Dean to pose for a photo shoot is the whole plot of the film and it does wear thin, especially combined with the leisurely pacing. The film often hints at a potential important message but never really settles on what that message is. The director Anton Corbijn, well known for his own photography work, does an efficient workmanlike job that is not without merit. This is a film about the pursuit and creation of some pictures that doesn’t hit the artistic heights it aims for, despite a sterling Pattinson performance.

Life Three stars

Written by Lyndon Wells

Life, film review - Top 10 FilmsDirected by: Anton Corbijn
Written by: Luke Davies
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton
Released: 205 / Genre: Drama / Country: Various / IMDB
More reviews: Latest | Archive

LIFE is out now in the UK on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download

About the Author
A film geek and cinephile masquerading as a Doctor, husband and father. With my dog Bilbo by my side I seek to prescribe a healthy movie experience through accurate diagnostics. Find me on Twitter: @lwellsfilm

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  1. Rodney Reply

    I have found DeHaan a substantially better performer with each film he’s appeared in – and he was pretty damn good in Chronicle, really – whilst Pattinson is a talent I can happily avoid. Good review, Lyndon, I might check this out at some point but by the sounds of it it shouldn’t be high on my “must see” list.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      Thanks. DeHaan is one to watch, Chronicle was great ( shame Josh Trank went on to make the mess that was Fantastic Four). Not really fully appreciated Pattinson until this film he really does become the character. Agree should not be high in your watch list but an interesting watch

  2. CineGirl Reply

    Thought Pattinson was great again. He rarely gets it wrong and is choosing some very interesting projects. I’d give the film 4 stars.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      The best thing about the film is the performances. Because the storyline and message gets lost towards the end of the film I struggled to give it higher than 3 stars. A 4 star film is a must watch and not sure I could insist people on watching this one. Agree Pattinson proved what a talent he is and continues to make interesting choices to escape his twilight legacy!

  3. maxime Reply

    I loved the film very much, the atmosphere of the fifties was very well brought on screen. Both performances of Dane DeHaan and Rob Pattinson were great. It is true though that Pattinson has the rare talent of being a character, not playing it but it takes some films of him to realize that.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      I agree the atmosphere was expertly captured, it did feel like the fifties and I didn’t truly appreciate Pattinson’s talent until I watched this one

  4. Callum Reply

    The performances were strong and Corbijn has an eye for detail when it comes to the visuals but the script lets the film down a bit. It didn’t have the drama to back up the performances and Corbijn’s pace was too slow.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      Perfectly summed up totally agree and unfortunately can be applied to Corbijin’s previous work like the American and A most Wanted Man.

  5. ruth Reply

    I want to see this as I had just seen CONTROL and found it to be mesmerizing. I didn’t care for Twilight and thought Pattinson is so unattractive in that franchise, but he changed my mind when I saw Remember Me. I’m curious to see him here. I mean Corbijn did get an amazing performance out of Sam Riley in Control in his first film role, so not surprised he could do the same here w/ Pattinson.

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