DVD Review: ‘One Life’

Hoping to capitalise on the success of current BBC One ratings hit Frozen Planet and the Christmas home entertainment market, this week BBC Earth release One Life (2011) on DVD and Blu-ray following its theatrical run in July of this year. British actor Daniel Craig – returning in the role of 007 for Bond 23, Sam Mendes’ Skyfall (2012) – replaces David Attenborough on narration duty and, yet it is the over-familiarity of the footage on show that ultimately lets the film down.

Anyone who caught the superb televisual extravaganza Life last year may well feel that they have already seen this current effort before it even finishes, such is the overlap between feature film and television series. An iconic chase scene involving a group of highly-specialised cheetahs and their ostrich prey across the African savanna has already been aired on numerous occasions, and whilst it loses little of its spectacle on repeat viewing, it does seem odd that alternative footage of their unique hunting method is seemingly unavailable, or at the very least unused.

It quickly becomes apparent upon watching the film that One Life has been designed as a vehicle for BBC Earth to once again reach out to new international markets through a theatrical release, despite the global popularity of Life, Planet Earth and countless previous series. Despite this, the superbly shot footage of creatures great and small as they lead their diverse lives remains awe-inspiring, and is reason enough to warrant viewing.

David Attenborough – now widely regarded as a national institution for his contribution to both documentary filmmaking and broadcasting – gives way to the more internationally-recognisable (and saleable) tones of Daniel Craig, who does a perfectly fine job of walking the line between factual objectivity and family-friendly anthropomorphism.

For those uninitiated in BBC wildlife filmmaking, One Life would certainly function as a near-perfect ‘taster’ introduction, a relatively cinematic feature-length ‘Best of’ reel, held together by a well-chosen ‘birth-sex-death’ linearity. However, for Attenborough veterans or those looking to really immerse themselves in the animal kingdom ‘red in tooth and claw’ this festive season, a Life/Planet Earth box-set would probably be the wiser purchase.

Daniel Green