DVD Review – Life (2015)

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Anton Corbijn is one of the greatest living photographers in the world due to his extraordinary rock photography. He is best known for his iconic photographs of Joy Division so naturally his debut feature as a film director was a biopic of Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis. It was flawed with some factual liberties I found distracting but overall satisfying. Sam Riley’s accent was also slightly too Yorkshire for my liking. His latest is Life which is also about a fascinating young man who died far too young.

The subject is of course James Dean who is played by the overrated young actor Dane Dehaan who was Corbijn’s one and only choice to play Dean. Dehaan’s favourite actor is James Dean so he was naturally reluctant to take the role. The biggest problem with his portrayal of Dean comes down to the cosmetic issue that his hair is too neat to replicate Dean’s always slightly messy hair.  The film also glosses over any of Dean’s possible bisexuality or homosexuality as he was reported as saying “No, I am not a homosexual. But I’m also not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.”.

The film depicts the photo-shoots for Life magazine which Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) took of Dean around the time of the release of Dean’s debut starring role in East of Eden. They are both up and coming in their respective fields and both loners to some extent (a constant theme in Corbijn’s films) and bond and they end up travelling together to Dean’s hometown of Fairmont, Indiana.  The photographs of Stock were taken months before Dean’s untimely death at the of 24 in his beloved “Little Bastard” car. These photographs alongside the 3 films he starred in East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant cemented Dean as one of the most iconic stars of the 20th century. It would also make Stock a well-respected photographer in the process.

Corbijn is a solid director and the film has a nice amount of period detail given the relatively small budget of the film. He was obviously attracted to the project because it’s told though the eyes of the photographer and is a story about a photographer and his subject. Robert Pattinson gives the stronger performance of the two leads and along with the Cronenberg films he has done recently he is shaping out to be one of the most interesting actors of his generation. Ben Kingsley plays Jack Warner and is having some fun with the role. The film has some pleasing moments but Dehaan’s superficial impersonation of Dean brings the film down but it’s worth a watch.

Ian Schultz

Biography, Drama | USA, 2015 | 15 | eOne Uk | 1st February 2016 (UK) |Dir.Anton Corbijn | Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Ben Kingsley, Peter Lucas