If you’re counting down the days to the release of Ridley Scott’s latest ALIEN film (due out in Hong Kong on May 18th), you can content yourself in the meantime with LIFE, which floated onto our cinema screens last Thursday. Like the ALIEN series, LIFE is about an alien lifeform that plays havoc on board a spaceship. Ten minutes into the film you’ll be saying to yourself that you’ve seen this all before and, by and large, you’ll be right. There are a few twists and turns along the way but you generally know what’s going to happen.
Let me back up a bit…
It’s the present day and an international crew of six (four men and two women) from the US, the UK, Japan and Russia are onboard the International Space Station. As the film opens, an unmanned research probe is returning from Mars. It had a run-in along the way with a meteor shower and now it’s slightly off-course. Astronaut Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds, DEADPOOL) has to go outside space station to snag the errant pod and, when he does lasso it with the help of the ISS’s Canadarm, it’s high fives all around. The pod has brought back some soil samples from the Red Planet, which scientist Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare, ROGUE ONE) quickly goes to work on examining. When he finds a single-celled organism, the crew is all excited but the flagellum-like entity isn’t responding to Derry’s cocktail of gases. He tweaks the formula and presto! The thing starts moving. Proof of life exists on Mars and more high fives. But before long, the thing starts to grow and, well, you can guess the rest.
As the alien (now named “Calvin” by a sweet, little African-American girl whose school won the naming lottery) slowly picks off the crew one by one, growing larger and stronger with each drop of human blood it gobbles up, the remaining astronauts have to make critical decisions that affect each other. Ultimately, they know that, no matter what, Calvin can’t make it back to Earth alive.
If you’ve ever seen a haunted house or slasher movie before, the formula for LIFE is exactly the same. Characters make decisions that we, the audience, know will get them into trouble later on; things that could go wrong, do go badly wrong; and more than a few doors get slammed shut just in the nick of time. But, to its credit, the film is done well. The characters float weightlessly throughout the whole ship – there are no anti-grav boots or special compartments where the crew can walk around as they would on Earth. Also done well is the order of who gets eaten up by the monster and it’s not what you think it will be. And although I figured out the ending a few minutes before it happened, it still worked.
Though not in the same league as a Hitchcock thriller, LIFE is innocuous, if not slightly mindless, entertainment.
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