Review: Life

The refreshingly grisly sci-fi/horror outing Life, from Swedish director Daniel Espinosa, has acknowledged a debt to Ridley Scott’s original Alien in order to defuse any charges of ripping that one off.

As far as Alien rip-offs go this is one of the better ones, and certainly amongst the most high-profile and upmarket. Genre geeks will still be displeased – but they always are.

The six-strong crew of the International Space Station are introduced during a lengthy and slightly awkward sequence in which a probe returning from Mars is intercepted with something amazing inside which, of course, turns out to be a cell which proves the existence of Martian life millions of years ago. The various familiar members of the team then consider what to do as the thing – naturally – transforms from a tiny organism to a rather larger critter that’s part octopus, part stingray and part ‘face-hugger’, and you do have to wonder: haven’t any of them seen Alien?

You know the basics here: the beastie (named ‘Calvin’) keeps growing, getting smarter and wanting to live (just like any animal), and the humans keep allowing it to crush their limbs and invade their orifices.

They’re quite a bunch. Dr. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) has spent too long in space and his judgment is perhaps impaired; Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) finds her ethical side compromised when she wants the creature dead. Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) has a new baby back on Earth so he’ll be okay, won’t he? Katarina Golovkin (Olga Dihovichnaya) has a cool line in looking uneasy. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) is so caught up in the early excitement that he does something really stupid; and Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds, also in Espinosa’s Safe House) is on hand for a Reanimator reference.

A little ponderous at first (Ridley Scott’s classic was just a Monster Movie, but this has a few pretensions and a bit too much scientific blather and existential angst), Epinosa’s film eventually creepily kicks in once Calvin kicks out, and the nervous cast are good enough to stop you thinking about Sigourney Weaver – if only for a moment.

Rated MA. Life is in cinemas now.

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