Alien was a tremendous sci-fi horror film when it was released in 1979, and that’s still true today. It’s obvious that the people behind Life share this sentiment because the two movies share quite a bit more than a passing resemblance. And while the latter isn’t on the same level as the former, the result is still worth a look.
The International Space Station is full of scientists (including characters played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya) who are eagerly awaiting a delivery from Mars. An unmanned craft is bringing them some soil samples that they believe might have signs of past life. After a harrowing retrieval process, they find a single-celled organism in a dormant state. But when they give it an atmosphere and some nutrients, it comes out of dormancy. And then it starts growing into a complex, unique, curious, and intelligent creature. They’ve taken precautions to keep it contained, but they’re not good enough. Soon, it’s loose on the space station and killing off the scientists in its need to feed.
The film’s connections to Alien are readily apparent, but it’s also got a lot in common with Carpenter’s The Thing in its quest to survive and grow at all costs, and in its ability to adapt to its environment. It does feel like it suffers from a lack of creativity at times, sometimes to the point of feeling clichéd (especially in a highly unoriginal “moment of realization” scene that you can see coming from a mile away). And I really wish they had gone a different route with the end because it’s not nearly as clever as they think it is and there are a few other alternatives that I would have rather explored. But it’s got a good runtime (103 minutes) that doesn’t feel too compressed or too drawn out, some good effects, and the cast works well together. Even when you’ve got a pretty good idea about what’s going to happen, it manages to be a pretty fun movie.