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Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare

Director: Daniel Espinosa

60 years ago at the movies, American astronauts led by Marshall Thompson were decimated by an extraterrestrial that had stowed away on the spaceship in glorious black-and-white in IT! The Terror from Beyond Space” a science fiction concept revamped and delivered in glorious colour by director Ridley Scott when something nasty from space burst out of John Hurt’s chest in Alien.

And if there’s one thing that movies have taught us, it’s that if at first you succeed, rustle up a revamp. Which is just what screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have done here to provide director Daniel Espinosa with this serviceable but hardly eyebrow-raising riff on !’ and Alien.

The plot is straightforward and simple – six members (two women, four men) of the crew of the International Space Station unknowingly seal their fates when they collaborate in retrieving a capsule containing an organism responsible for the destruction of life on Mars and which now rapidly evolves into something suitably horrible that sets about deleting the luckless space scientists as well…

For some reason, the astronauts name the creature Calvin. Perhaps that’s what angers it and triggers off the life form’s murderous rampage…

Special effects are special – the actors fly through the air with the greatest of ease and very convincingly as well, and they all do what they have to do in the way of acting as well as can be expected, given the predictability of much of the narrative.

And, to give him his due, Espinosa keeps the action moving as best he can and creates commendable suspense from the material. It’s not his fault (or that of the actors or special effects creators) that while it looks impressive, Life? tends to taper off before the end.

(One line may – or may not - amuse British cinemagoers when Reynolds’ character says of costar Bakare “Hugh doesn't shower anyway - he's British. It's not being critical, you're just a very under-bathed nation; everybody knows it”).

Alan Frank

USA 2017. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 09 Apr 2017