Space Thriller Fails To Breathe “Life” Back Into Tired Subgenre

In space, nobody can hear you yawn. Daniel Espinosa’s Life takes a solid cast of leading and character actors and makes them suffer through a creaky Alien ripoff that has a few genuine moments of tension and a whole lot of the same old thing you’d expect from a film of this type. And to make matters worse, it features one of those – sort-of spoiler alert – nihilistic types of endings that tend to go better with grim horror movies.

As the film opens, a group of scientists and engineers are aboard a space station as they await a capsule that possibly contains proof of life on Mars to arrive. Once it does, they discover a life form that they come to refer to as Calvin for reasons with which I won’t waste your time. The characters are given meager introductions – there’s space cowboy Rory (Ryan Reynolds), a pilot with Major Tom Syndrome named David Jordan (Jake Gylenhaal), intelligent Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson), obligatory Russian Ekaterina (Olga Dihovichnaya), brainy and paralyzed scientist Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) and tech guy Sho (Hiroyuki Sanada).

Hugh is fascinated by Calvin and takes an interest in playing with the life form, which starts out small before becoming a large tentacled creature with a creepy face. But while attempting to get a reaction out of the creature by prodding it with electricity (bad idea), things suddenly run amok.

It’s at this point that the film goes full Alien as the crew members attempt to survive as Calvin – referred to as all muscle and brain, no doubt making him a popular match on Tinder – attacks and attempts to feed off them. Most of the obvious steps are attempted and scenes utilized – a failed quarantine, a sequence during which an astronaut is trapped outside the ship, another in which the creature has made its way into a character’s body, etc. You know the drill.

Unlike such heady, recent trips to the cosmos – Gravity and Interstellar, for instance – Espinosa’s film has no intention other than to be a B-movie and acting as a possible means of tiding over genre junkies until the new Alien film gets released in May. But it’s a pretty mediocre substitute. There are a few skillfully made sequences during which the crew members attempt to outwit Calvin, but Life is mostly, well, lifeless.

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