Review: Few signs of ‘Life’ in schlocky sci-fi tale
Don’t let the very good cast fool you, this outer space adventure is just another ‘Alien’ clone
The outer space sci-fi tale “Life” is caught orbiting between its prestige picture aspirations and its schlocky reality. It would be better off leaning in either direction, but as it is, this “Alien” clone is stuck smack dab in the middle.
On board the International Space Station, a crew that includes David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), Roy Adams (Ryan Reynolds) and Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) discovers a life captured from Mars. It’s a microscopic single-cell organism, and as they probe it, they learn it’s rather advanced — “all-muscle, all-brain, all-eye,” as one of the crew members says ominously.
It begins to grow. At first it’s small, clear and cute, like a gelatin Hamburger Helper character. But the creature — dubbed Calvin by some schoolchildren back on Earth — doesn’t stay friendly for long, and when good ol’ Cal turns hostile and escapes his Plexiglass enclosure, crew members start getting picked off one by one.
As Calvin — now a slithery octopus-like creature — terrorizes the crew, director Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House”) builds an unending series of sequences around the opening and last-second closing of airlock passageways. (It would seem Calvin could be contained behind any one of those doors rather easily, but the slimy sucker is extremely adept at making his way around the ship.)
The talented cast does its best to sell the material, but is mostly lost in space; Gyllenhaal suffers worst when he’s forced to recite from “Goodnight Moon” with a straight face. There are a few decent B-movie jumps, but Espinosa thinks he’s making “Gravity,” not a SyFy movie with an unusually good cast. In space, no one can hear you sigh with resignation.
Rated R: for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror
Running time: 110 minutes