Director: Daniel Espinosa
Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Life acts as a concoction of well-worn elements of much larger horror/science-fiction pictures like Alien, Gravity and The Thing, but brings with it a new, muscular Martian monster of its own to try and startle the audience in familiar but effective ways. Offering up kind of body horror shocks that rely on pressing at the audiences pnigophobia (the fear of being strangled or smothered), especially with one particularly nasty death early on, as the creature squeezes and constricts its way through the ship toward its victims.
The design and movement of the creature called Calvin is detailed enough to feel like a genuine threat. The early stages of its transformation as a translucent gelatinous creation floating around the weightless rooms and corners is fantastically unnerving, only when it becomes larger and more defined by form with tentacles and facial features does it become all the more ordinary of an antagonist.
The screenplay by Deadpool and Zombieland scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick does little to shake up the formula of the genre or its initial set-up, and the stock characters aboard the ship lack a great deal of depth but the performances manage to fill in some of the blanks – with the humanistic Gyllenhaal, the hardnosed Ferguson and the more comedic Reynolds.
Daniel Espinosa’s direction keeps everything efficiently moving forward with a rapid pace and focus on the enclosed tensions of the opening act, with its slow drip of information and frightful discovery making it the most involving stretch of the film before it devolves into more typical behaviour later on as the chase takes over from the enjoyably grisly first act. It's undeniably silly in moments, but it grounds things enough and keeps the reactions of the crew members to the rapidly escalating horrors reasonable enough to buy into it.
Life is rather content with being the knock-off that it appears to be, and while it doesn’t try much new beyond the introduction of its gruesome new creature, it does so well enough to justify its purpose with its visuals and execution.