Fans of “Alien” are sure to find similarities in “Life”, an unapologetic knock-off of the Ridley Scott classic. A big name cast faces off against a deadly alien creature in the claustrophobic confines of their space station/ship. Sounds familiar, right? Yet despite wearing its influence where everyone can see it, “Life” succeeds thanks to some good characters, even better tension, and an ending that lands perfectly.
“Life” is Director Daniel Espinosa’s follow-up to his 2014 film “Child 44” (an underrated film on its own right). As you can imagine, this is a considerably different movie. It may follow familiar footsteps, but Espinosa doesn’t give you much time to think about that. He keeps the pacing crisp and the story is constantly moving forward. He also manages to create some great images despite a pretty modest budget. Some of them hearken to Cuarón’s “Gravity” while others the aforementioned “Alien”.
The writing team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick take a welcomed detour from their mind-melting “Deadpool” model. It may not be the most original script but it serves up some fun science-fiction horror. It takes place on the orbiting International Space Station where the crew (with a global flavor) awaits the arrival of a probe from Mars. After a rocky docking the crew recovers soil samples and immediately begins testing.
The chief science officer Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) discovers a rapid-growing, multi-celled organism predominately made up of brains and muscle. Back home, school kids win a contest to pick the creature’s name. The choose “Calvin”. It begins as a microscopic life form but a couple of mishaps and several added pounds later and Calvin is out of his petri dish hunting the crew through the ISS.
A solid cast round out the ISS team. Rebecca Ferguson is the quarantine officer, Jake Gyllenhaal is the medical officer, Ryan Reynolds and Hiroyuki Sanada are engineers, and Olga Dihovichnaya plays the station commander. Reese and Wernick handle the characters well, giving each just enough attention to make them more than generic bloody fodder for the creature.
“Calvin doesn’t hate us. But he has to kill us in order to survive.” It’s a good line from Hugh that offers some interesting food for thought. Other than that “Life” doesn’t require much thinking. I’m sure some of its logic could be picked apart if you’re into that kind of thing, but I enjoyed it as a taut, white-knuckle space thriller that looks great and absolutely nails it’s ending. That’s enough for me.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS