** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Daniel Espinosa
STARS Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson
- Jake Gyllenhaal in Life (Photo: Columbia)
As a title, Life is a pretty lousy choice. It relates absolutely nothing about the movie at hand — at best, it sounds like some inspirational Hallmark Channel production, and, at worst, it recalls that cloying “Life: What a Beautiful Choice” campaign created by foaming anti-choice zealots back in the ‘90s. Given the actual narrative of the film, a better generic choice might have been Space Station. Or Mars. Or Astronauts. Or Alien.
Scratch that last one — it’s already been taken. Then again, what is Life if not an Alien copy? That’s perfectly legitimate, of course, what with imitation being the sincerest blah blah blah. And while there have already been countless other films influenced by Alien, there’s also the fact that Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic was itself inspired by 1958’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space. Where Life strikes out is in the fact that it adds absolutely nothing new to this template: It’s strictly for folks who somehow have never seen Alien — or any science fiction drama, for that matter.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation’s Rebecca Ferguson are among those portraying the six members of a space expedition who come into contact with a mysterious microbe from Mars. Initially a cute counterpart to Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, the extra-terrestrial grows at a frightening rate, and it’s soon large enough to slaughter at will.
From the offing of a character earlier than expected to the alien wreaking havoc from within the human body (thankfully, the filmmakers resist the urge to outright lift the chestburster scene), everything about Life feels like reheated leftovers. Director Daniel Espinosa manages to stage a couple of scenes for modest suspense, but any forward narrative thrust eventually goes straight out the space station window solely for the sake of an obvious twist ending that should surprise absolutely no one over the age of 10 — and by 10, I mean 10 months old, not 10 years old.