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Back to Life – haven’t we been here before?

It may look like Alien, but this is a super Space adventure and a well-crafted thriller

23 March, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Ryan Reynolds in Life

LIFE
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Certificate 15

THERE are six people living on the International Space Station, and at the start we watch them as they carefully dock a Mars explorer and take soil samples from the Red Planet.

In one sample, there seems to be some kind of micro-organism, so biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) starts to study the cells. As his colleagues look on – a Hollywood version of the United Nations of scientists, with the upright Brit (Bakare), sexy Russian (Olga Dihovichnaya), gung-ho American (Ryan Reynolds), thoughtful medic (Jake Gyllenhaal), clever Asian (Hiroyuki Sanada), etc – the collection of cells start multiplying and becoming an entity.

They call it Calvin – and before you know it, the little fella has decided being kept in a glass container for a scientist to prod isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

This is an excellent horror, a super space adventure, a well-crafted thriller. It flies by as our unfortunate heroes orbit Earth wondering what they should do with the alien they are sharing their living quarters with.

The only gripe is simply we have been here before: its general thread is that of Ridley Scott’s super opening film in the Alien franchise.

The attempts to make it a little different by tweaking the story with a dilemma of how do you stop something from another planet contaminating this one – and adding in riffs on our inhumane behaviour towards one another – give it some political oomph. But essentially, this is about some ugly baddie slithering along vents and tunnels in a space ship as it seeks out humans to feast on.

Thankfully, it does it with a huge dollop of claustrophobia and careful storytelling, and Alien is still one of the best films ever made, so while this is the kid brother of Scott’s masterpiece, don’t hold that against it. Siblings are OK. It is excellent sci-fi entertainment.

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