(Rated R), 3 1/2 aliens (out of 4)
I love movies set in outer space. From “Star Wars” to “Gravity”, I am ready to take a cinematic flight anytime. The latest film set among the stars is “Life” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds.
The story involves a six-member crew aboard the International Space Station awaiting the return of a space probe which will contain a soil sample from Mars. When the probe arrives the crew will study the soil sample to see if they can prove the existence of extraterrestrial life. When the probe is successfully captured by pilot Rory Adams (Reynolds), British biologist Hugh Derry (Hiroyuki Sanada) begins his study of the soil sample. Hugh extracts a single cell from the sample, and eventually is able to revive the organism with an adjustment to the atmosphere and glucose. Is the awakening of an unknown organism necessarily a good thing? According to most sci-fi movies, no. Nevertheless, our biologist continues his experiments on the the organism he describes as all brain, all muscle and all eye.
The description doesn’t sound good to me. When the living organism is revealed to those back on Earth, a school child nicknames the life form Calvin. Meanwhile, back on the Station, Hugh continues to experiments on the newly named Calvin, to disastrous results. I could have told them reviving the organism was not a good idea. Calvin becomes hostile and immediately begins efforts to wipe out the crew in order to survive. The senior medical officer on the station, Dr. David Jordan (Gyllenhaal) works with other member of the crew, including Quarantine Office Dr. Miranda North (Ferguson) to devise a way to kill the creature. Let me interject, this creature at first appears to be a see-through star fish at first, but eventually morphs into a nasty alien creature one would expect in this film genre.
The battle between Calvin and the humans escalates to the point of no return, as the creature is determined to survive. The story definitely brings home the point that discovering life on other planets is not necessarily a good thing. The film has a plot twist I was not expecting, which resulted in more tension to the already tense proceedings. I also enjoyed the surprise ending which could lead to a sequel if the film manages to make enough profit. I also enjoyed the fact the movie had me thinking of the blockbuster “Alien” film series, which led to even more enjoyment of this effort. The actors all do a fine job, with Gyllenhaal leading the effort with his usual outstanding performance. Reynolds, as usual, provided comedic relief, even during some very thrilling moments.
Unfortunately many of the characters don’t survive to the end of the film, and I will not reveal which ones do, other than to say the alien is smart for good reason. Director Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House”), does a wonderful job keeping the film moving at a brisk pace, and provides plenty of opportunity for the co-stars, as well as the other featured actors, to shine. The special effects, as expected are spectacular, and scenes of the Space Station above Earth are often breathtaking. If you enjoy films of this ilk, then be sure to head to your local theater, strap in, and take flight with the enjoyable sci-fi/horror film “Life”.