Julie Lynn, Mary Jo Markey, and Nigel Phelps in Life (2017)


(director: Daniel Espinosa; screenwriters: Rhett Reese/ Paul Wernick; cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey; editors: Frances Parker, Mary Jo Markey; music: Jon Ekstrand; cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (David Jordan), Ryan Reynolds (Rory Adams), Rebecca Ferguson (Miranda North), Olga Dihovichnaya (Ekaterina Golovkina), Hiroyuki Sanada (Sho Murakami), Ariyon Bakare (Hugh Derry); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producer: ; Columbia Pictures; 2017)
Slick but lifeless sci-fi thriller about a Mars probe that unearths an alien.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Swedish-born filmmaker Daniel Espinosa (“Child 44″/”Easy Money”) directs this slick but lifeless sci-fi thriller about a Mars probe that unearths an alien. It’s written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the co-writers of “Deadpool”/“Zombieland”) as a silly but suspenseful horror pic. The feature has good technical applications (especially the long single-take pre-title shot) and good production values (the interstellar vista shots alone might be worth the price of a ticket if you have a taste for cheesy derivative B-films), but it fails to humanize its characters or come up with a creative story.

Its ensemble cast is made up of a 6-member space crew. It includes an international team of 2 white Americans (PTSS space medic David Jordan-Jake Gyllenhaal and mission technician specialist Rory Adams-Ryan Reynolds), 2 European women (in charge of disease control and prevention Miranda North-Rebecca Ferguson and the overbearing Russian cosmonaut Ekaterina Golovkina-Olga Dihovichnaya), a veteran Japanese pilot and recent father Sho Murakami-Hiroyuki Sanada and the Englishman black paraplegic microbiologist Hugh Derry-Ariyon Bakare). If you’re a fan of the 1979 Ridley Scott classic Alien, you should note that this bigger budget knockoff is not even close in quality.

It’s set inside the $200 billion orbiting International Space Station after a Mars probe returns with soil samples. Scientist Dherry finds a single-cell organism he dubs Calvin, that mysteriously and aggressively morphs into what looks like an angry squid (a CGI creation that’s all muscle, all eye, all brain) with bad vision. The crew on the Mars Pilgrim 7 Mission get picked off one at a time, as the suspense mounts as Calvin gets hungry and occupies the mouth of his vic to do his gory thing. Explanations abound that tells us this evolving life form caused extinction on Mars and now threatens the Earth unless checked. It builds to a surprise ending that didn’t work for me.

The tagline is: “Be careful what you search for.” My tagline would be “Don’t believe an alien pic is good because you think it looks good.”