To be honest, I didn’t expect the new film, Life, to be much more than a high-budget Alien rip-off; and in many respects it is just that (although I’m certain the filmmakers would rather use the term “homage” instead). But, nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this science-fiction flick has enough originality to set itself apart from the obvious comparison.
Life is a mash-up of the Alien film franchise and 2013’s Gravity film, with a smattering of The Abyss and last year’s Arrival thrown in for good measure. It will feel like you’ve seen this movie before, but it will still have you on the edge of your seat, squirming like you’ve just touched the skin of a slimy octopus – from another world.
As sci-fi films go, I’d say Life is not as smart as Arrival, but it is still savvy enough to fool naïve and novice ‘astronauts’ like myself. There are plenty of instrument switches and pseudo-science theories that will likely drive Neil deGrasse Tyson insane, but make the rest of us nod approvingly.
The film begins as the crew of the International Space Station gets creative in catching an incoming space probe, returning to Earth with the first soil samples from the surface of Mars. Safety precautions have been put into place to study the samples onboard the station, rather than on Earth; because who knows what kind of crazy critters could be hiding in that red dirt?
It turns out that one of those little Martian microbes (dubbed “Calvin” by Earth’s school kids) is smarter than the average bacteria, and as it grows in size all sorts of gruesome mayhem ensues onboard the orbiting space station.
Will the international crew of scientists and astronauts survive this first encounter with intelligent alien life? Will Calvin get to visit Earth and hobble human life as we know it? You’ll have to see for yourself and I recommend that you do, for despite very low expectations, this is a very entertaining thriller.
The cast includes Ryan Reynolds as a smart-ass (of course) astronaut pilot; Hiroyuki Sanada as a Japanese engineer; Rebecca Ferguson as the station’s security officer; Ariyon Bakare as the team’s lead biologist; Jake Gyllenhaal as a former combat doctor; and, apparently, in the near future, Trump has made America great again by putting a Russian commander, Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), in charge of the space station.
Life is directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) and is, oddly enough, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the same team of scribes who gave us Deadpool – which is strange because if there is one thing missing from this film it is a sense of humor.
This isn’t the greatest sci-fi film you will ever see; and it’s not the best ‘alien gone awry’ movie either; but it will entertain you with extra-terrestrial thrills and outer-space suspense for a couple of hours. Grade: 7/10
Photos © 2016 Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.