One Life: Film Review
Michael Gunton, Martha Holmes
This Daniel Craig-narrated documentary offers astonishing views of the planet's animal life.
Nature lovers who somehow missed David Attenborough’s television series Life or who don’t have the high-definition, large-screen televisions necessary to do justice to its glorious visuals will find much to appreciate in One Life. This documentary directed by Michael Gunton and Martha Holmes reprises many of that show’s finest moments in what amounts to a greatest-hits compilation. But the opportunity to see the stunning footage on the big screen is not to be missed, and the narration by Daniel Craig, delivered with James Bond-style drollness, makes it as much fun to listen to as to watch. The film is premiering on over 400 screens nationwide for a limited engagement.
As is so often the case with nature documentaries, the attempts to lend human-like motivations to the animal behavior often feel strained. The film is divided into distinct chapters dealing with such themes as parenting, procuring food, avoiding predators and mating and reproduction.
“He’s not what you’d call a hands-on dad,” Craig remarks ironically about a male silverback gorilla. Far more effective in their parenting skills are such creatures as a red poison arrow frog -- about the size of a human fingernail and painstakingly transports her even tinier tadpoles up a tree so they can get proper nourishment -- and the female octopus, who dies shortly after giving birth.
Cuteness abounds, not surprisingly, in such sights as snow monkeys lounging luxuriously in hot thermal springs; Brazilian capuchin monkeys using rocks to crack nuts; and the “Jesus Christ Lizard” walking on water.
But the film doesn’t shy away from nature’s harsher aspects. Venus flytraps, as scary as any creature you’d see in an Alien movie, trap their prey with chilling efficiency. Komodo dragons wait patiently to feed on a water buffalo dying from the poison one of them inflicted with a single bite. A group of cheetahs, working together like a homicidal tag team, bring down a frantically fleeing ostrich. And chameleons use their lightning-fast darting tongues to snare praying mantises.
“Delicious,” Craig intones with an amusing air of satisfaction.
Some of the segments offer cliffhanger-type thrills, such as when an elephant attempts to rescue her baby from engulfing mud, only to push it even further into the muck. Things seem hopeless until the grandmother barges in and saves the day.
The truly astonishing lensing by a huge team of photographers from the BBC’s Natural History Unit provides one visual thrill after another, while George Fenton’s stylistically diverse musical score provides the proper emotional cues.
Opens Feb. 21 (Screenvision)
Production: BBC Earth, Magic Light Pictures
Narrator: Daniel Craig
Directors/screenwriters: Michael Gunton, Martha Holmes
Producers: Martin Pope, Michael Rose
Executive producers: Amanda Hill, Neil Nightingale, Joe Oppenheimer, Martyn Freeman, Marcus Arthur
Editor: David Freeman
Composer: George Fenton
Not rated, 85 min.