“Life” opens as the crew of the International Space Station works to retrieve an unmanned space pod that has been knocked off course on its way back to the mother ship.
The group manages to lasso the wayward space traveler and its precious cargo, the first soil samples from Mars.
“I’ve been looking forward to this,” says one of the team as the unmanned vehicle enters the mothership.
Well, be careful what you wish for.
A small portion of the soil sample is studied in an isolation chamber. The lead scientist adjusts the chamber’s environment, and the astronauts observe with excitement as a cell moves and develops very small “proto-appendages.”
“We’re looking at the first incontrovertible proof of life beyond earth,” says the scientist in a hushed tone of awe.
Again, be careful what you wish for.
As the soil sample develops, it comes to resemble a soft starfish, flexible but with steely tensile strength, great mobility and a taste for animals. There are unpleasant encounters with the scientist and then a white mouse. Things just keep getting worse as the creature, whatever it is, grows bigger and stronger.
The astronauts try at first to protect each other from the Martian, now named Calvin. The bigger job, they come to realize, is to make sure that Calvin never, ever sets a tentacle on the surface of the earth.
What ensues is a series of escalating battles to contain Calvin within one of the many lockable compartments of the space station, which itself is much more capacious than I would have expected.
“Life” is categorized as horror/science fiction with overtones of the thriller genre. It’s a creepy, well-paced story with plenty of suspense, well done even if several gaping plot holes would seem to invalidate the premise.
Film reviewers’ main critique of “Life” is that it is derivative, following much of the plot of “Alien,” a popular astronauts v. space creature movie from 1979. I’m not sure I see the point: How many different ways are there to set up a human encounter with a hostile extra-terrestrial in space?
If you like this sort of movie, you might as well go.