An Ominous Martian Is Encountered in ‘Life’

The film follows a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station on a mission of discovery.

David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) in Columbia Pictures' LIFE - courtesy of Sony Pictures David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) in LIFE - courtesy of Sony Pictures 2219634 - LIFE

An atmospheric horror film about a Martian who stalks a crew within the claustrophobic confines of a spacecraft, “Life” is a well-paced thriller.

It’s a film that opens with that familiar wide-pan view of the outer reaches of space before briefly introducing the team of six  scientists that include; a space connoisseur (Jake Gyllenhaal), a paraplegic British biologist (Ariyon Bakare), a microbiologist (Rebecca Ferguson), a flight engineer (Sho Murakami), a Russian cosmonaut (Olga Dihovichnaya) and flight mechanic (Ryan Reynolds). The team of scientists aboard the International Space Station are on an eight-month mission to Mars to find other life forms when they discover a rapidly evolving life form that could have caused extinction on the planet. Calvin, as he’s christened, is a single cell organism primarily made up of muscle and tissue and grows in new and more repellant forms with each stage. A metamorphic creature that adapts to his environment, Bakare’s character, Hugh Derry, is in charge of analyzing the alien creature and grows rather fond of it, much to everyone’s disdain. Over the course of the rest of the film, Calvin gets bigger, gets pissed off and eventually starts plucking off each crew member, and the mission becomes to stop the menace from reaching planet Earth.

Ariyon Bakare in “Life”

Directed by Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House”), it’s slow to start, but once Calvin is ticked off, the thrills and chills are truly accomplished in this atmospheric space flick. There is a skill in the direction that evokes brilliant tension. A carefully crafted space-horror film with decent jolts, there’s no better location to unleash this exploration of the unknown than the cramped, zero-gravity, inhospitable climate of the International Space Station.  Scene to scene, encounter to encounter, its tension builds unrelentingly and by the end of this Space fest, you will be wondering how soon a sequel will hit theaters. The score, which heightens the tension, is melodic, then becomes atonal in a way that fits a terrifying thriller and in the third act befittingly becomes more ominous and dissonant.

We’ve seen this type of flick before with Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic film “Alien,” which “Life” borrows from, but with the recent onslaught of space dramas; “Interstellar,” “The Martian,” “Passengers” and “Arrival,” it’s definitely fun to revisit another film with an ominous Martian encounter.

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