If there’s one thing you can say about the movie “Life”, is that it answers the question ‘Is there life on Mars?’ fairly quickly. In fact, it answers it in the trailer so there’s little time wasted in getting to the ‘good’ stuff.
When a returning probe from Mars returns with a sample of a single-celled organism, the joy of discovery quickly turns to terror for the five-person crew of the International Space Station as they learn the life form has an agenda of its own.
Blessed with a suitably starry cast, “Life” benefits from some smartly portrayed space science which takes centre stage in the early portion of the film, admittedly at the expense of character development but the film’s biggest mistake is in its rush to get to its own spin on the claustrophobic tension and terror of “Alien” it stumbles into repeating the worst of Ridley Scott’s other xenomorphic outing, “Prometheus”. In order to move its story along, “Life” consistently requires very smart people to make very stupid choices. There are odd gaps in the consistency of scenes and dialogue, hinting at a choppy editing process which sought to salvage something from a different, possibly longer movie. While it’s moderately successful in generating some suspense, there’s never enough depth to the characters to feel fully invested so the grisly developments fail to have the necessary impact. The cast do their best but the superficial script is too in love with its own premise to devote the time and effort needed to create the emotional stakes needed to really ratchet up the terror.
The special effects work, however, is mightily impressive, not just in the alien creation itself but also the portrayal of life aboard the ISS, rivalling “Gravity” for its seamless portrayal of life in orbit. But as glossy and slick as the visuals are, there’s just too much inconsistency and stupidity for the film to work and by the time it tries something really brave and different, it’s too late and you’ll see it coming a mile off. For all its promise and possibilities, “Life” is dead on arrival.