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Movie Review: One Life

Cheetah in a scene from ONE LIFE, an Alliance Films release. Photo Credit: Adam Chapman

Filled with myriad movie clichés and cinematic tropes, lacking depth and cunning, One Life triumphs as a piece of informative documentary and engaging movie-making due in large part to its large cast: the inhabitants of Earth.

BBC Earth Films has compiled the most compelling, surprising, and awe-inspiring footage into an 85-minute connected journey of varied inhabitants of this planet through the cycle of life, as narrated by the British voice of Daniel Craig.

The message seems overly simple and too general, that every species on Earth shares a similar life to one another and to humans, but it works because of the stars. Seals and dolphins, frogs and toads, birds, cheetahs, elephants, and Komodo dragons, among many, many others, make an appearance to illustrate in no uncertain terms that they possess the same love, same strength, same guile as humans.

Omitting climate change, hunting, poaching, or human interference in any regard (there are no humans seen in the film whatsoever) it seems to simply want our species to realize that there are ties that bind us all.

And it is wholly effective and surely to the filmmakers’ credit, finding not only the seemingly impossible shot that capture every important moment, but the perfect shot in every instance to tell a compelling story. The film constantly feels like a fictionalized movie, with a chase scene, numerous twists and surprises, and every indelible moment captured, leaving little to the imagination.

It also seems as if the Cheetahs are in on the script when one slowly stalks towards the camera, with a second entering the frame moments later, then giving way to a third that comes on camera in most dramatic fashion. A beetle battles suitors high atop the branch of a tree to find his mate; dolphins entrap their food, and in the arguably the most astounding scene, an ibex battles wits with a fox on a cliff side.

The eyes indeed have it, as do the mouths, the ears, and the furrowed brows, all of which carry with them a human quality. Monkeys discriminate and frustrate, lizards connive, birds dance, whales fight, and a rodent appears to mock, and in each instance, there is a startling familiar feel.

Both the music in the film and the inflection in Craig’s voice vary enough to dictate the very different tones of the film, from folly to fortune to death and despair, and no lack of suspense.

The filmmakers made a curious decision to avoid as much death as possible in the film, avoiding showing moments where the weak die off in most cases, but certainly acknowledging the possibility while demonstrating just how easily death comes. That is not to say there isn’t blood and dining carnivores, but it remains mostly sensitive to those who might easily take to tears with nature flexes its cruel muscle.

Occasionally cheesy, but always endearing, the film allows the animals themselves to send a message, making sure not to step on their presence by discussing politics, global warming, endangered species, or anything else either dire or controversial. The lack of nuance isn’t a vice, however; it is to their advantage

There are displays of love and loyalty, of frustration and confusion, of courage and determination-all every bit as compelling were humans in their stead. Perhaps the biggest argument for respecting the world in which with live is realizing how similar we are to every other species, the simple yet powerful theme of this simply beautiful and improbable film.

[star v=4]


Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.