With astronauts this dumb, it’s hard not to root for the alien
The astronauts aboard the International Space Station expect to make history. Hurtling toward them is a probe that has collected what may be proof of life on Mars.
Station biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare: Rogue One) finds a long-dormant single-cell organism among the dust samples. After cursory study, he tries to do the impossible: Resurrect a creature that has been dead for millennia. After a few tweaks to the shuttle’s environment and some nourishment, the cell, named Calvin, comes to life.
Derry is thrilled, seeing Calvin as key to unlocking medical secrets. Earth is cheering the momentous discovery and lauding the astronauts as heroes. But as Calvin evolves day by day into a more complex organism, the other astronauts worry.
Eventually, Calvin escapes the lab, as all horrific alien beings must. The critter then begins hunting down veteran astronaut David (Jake Gyllenhaal: Nocturnal Animals), safety specialist Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson: The Girl on the Train), mechanic Rory (Ryan Reynolds: Criminal), navigator Sho (Hiroyuki Sanada: The Last Ship) and captain Kat (Olga Dihovichnaya: House of Others).
Can the crew stay alive? More importantly: Can they keep Calvin from finding a way to Earth?
A movie so predictable you’ll swear you’ve already seen it, Life ruins the inherent tension of a horror movie set in a confined space with poor character development, hackneyed dialog and stale plot. Director Daniel Espinosa (Child 44) unsuccessfully tries to build tension using every horror cliché in movie history.
Pursuit by an alien that disintegrates a body in minutes leaves little room for nuance. Characters reduced to stereotypes — from the serious doctor with a secret to the wise-cracking mechanic — might as well be picked off by an angry alien.
Nor are any of them capable of doing a job in a rational way. Biologists stick their fingers within striking range of alien species, astronauts panic and no one thinks about escape pods until it’s far too late. Espinosa works so hard to keep the astronauts from escaping their predicament that the creature and its abilities become mythic.
In fact, there’s an argument to be made that Calvin is the hero of this film. It is smarter, stronger and more interesting than any of the bipeds. Tumbling through space without needing much oxygen, it figures out every trap the astronauts plant and eventually learns how to navigate a space ship. Calvin is not only proof of life on other planets but also proof that human beings are the dullards of the universe.
Poor Sci-Fi Horror • R • 103 mins