BBC’s latest production “One Life” is an engaging documentary about the journey that binds all living organisms together: life and the search for love and family. Directed by first-time filmmakers Michael Gunton and Martha Holmes and narrated by Daniel Craig (“Skyfall”), the documentary impresses, despite not being the first of its kind. It explores the lives of different animals as they survive in their world, persevere through hardships and ultimately settle down to start a family.
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“One Life” begins with the phenomenon of birth and moves on to aspects of living, such as hunting and survival, before finally moving to birth again, thereby creating a character arc for each species. Viewers of National Geographic’s features on the animal kingdom, David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet” and the like won’t be treated to particularly new content. The film is guilty of borrowing footage from BBC’s previous documentaries on animal life. However, the simple-yet-effective script combined with spectacular visuals makes this documentary a worthwhile watch for all members of the audience.
The narration is informative and easy to understand, a quality crucial to a successful documentary. It strives to keep a personable tone throughout the course of the film, often depicting the animals as human characters through its narration. The depiction, for example, of a gorilla “babysitting” his offspring prompts the viewer to sympathize with the documentary’s feral characters. At times, it’s evident that the script tries too hard to stir up emotions in the audience. However, the documentary successfully manages to juxtapose its “Aww!” moments with the “Wow, I did not know that,” thereby displaying its informative and emotional qualities.
Daniel Craig, despite being an unusual choice, does a decent job as the narrator. Initially, it’s hard to move past the image of Britain’s most lethal agent sitting in a tux and narrating the story of a Japanese snow monkey, but once that mission is accomplished, the viewer can begin to appreciate Craig’s handling of the script and the element of humor he brings to it.
While the script and narration play a crucial part, “One Life” is mostly about its visual impact, and in that regard, it’s stunning. BBC retains its flagship handling of visual effects, treating the viewer to some brilliant camerawork and superb shots. The music ties in well with all these elements and is pivotal in setting the mood for crucial moments — be it a tense stare down between predator and prey, a dramatic chase scene as a cheetah tears after an ostrich or even a humorous moment where a pebble-toad finds a clever route to escape from a giant tarantula. The usage of slow motion stands out, particularly since it’s hardly used, thereby providing maximum impact when it is.
After 85 minutes, the viewer comes out of the cinema hall having been treated to the emotional, educative and visually brilliant stories of some of the most wonderful creatures that we share this planet with. This documentary teaches us more about these animals, but more importantly, it teaches us that no matter how different we are, we still are one.