Rated R, 110 minutes
The new space thriller "Life" is essentially an "Alien" remake with an super evolving space octopus named Calvin. Handsomely filmed with some superb visuals and a handful of chilling moments, it's nothing really new in terms of fighting-aliens-in-space (and it doesn't help there's a new "Alien" film from Ridley Scott arriving later this year).
Astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds) aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined.
"Life" is directed by Daniel Espinosa ("Child 44") and is co-written by "Deadpool's" co-writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and comes armed with an A-list cast and serviceable special effects, particularly the deadly creature named Calvin, who grows deadlier and deadlier as he devours every human in sight. It's not exactly cutting-edge in terms of filmmaking, but it still delivers some nice scares that may keep you off seafood for awhile.
Since extraterrestrial life isn't familiar with the ways of Earth, it has no qualms about picking off A-list actors in the first act of the film. On that note yet without giving away too much, it could be a mild disappointment that "Deadpool" star Reynolds, in spite of a top billing with Ferguson and Gyllenhaal, has considerably less footage than the rest of his castmates. Ferguson ("The White Queen" and "The Girl on the Train," among others) inherits the Ripley-esque role with determination and intelligence, while Gyllenhaal shows his usual amount of grit, particularly in the final, exhausting scenes, which even leave it open for a possible sequel.
The opening act, as it begins to reveal who Calvin may be, is its best, and from there it unravels into a standard issue space slasher film, as the creature starts knocking people off one by one. What isn't clear is why there are lapses in judgment from such supposedly smart people, such as sending a crew member outside the ship with the creature's whereabouts unknown, and why all of the crew doesn't have the same information before heading out on its mission.
Even with that, Calvin the space octopus provides "Life" with its most chilling moments, and without him, it wouldn't be as near as fun. The "Alien" series, which this film is clearly trying to emulate, did the whole trapped-in-space thing much better. One of the more laughable statements comes from one of the crew (shortly before his death), who says "Calvin doesn't hate us, but he must kill us." Um, would have to disagree with you there, buddy, but thanks for playing in the game of "Life."