Review / ‘Life’ (MA) ***

THE theme of space travellers beset by extra-terrestrial nasties has given rise to some notable horror films.

In 1979, Ridley Scott gave us “Alien”. In “Gravity” (2014) Sandra Bullock nearly got a best actress Oscar for leaving George Clooney floating around in space.

Swedish director Daniel Espinosa’s “Life”, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, brings to that genre a sci-fi horror tale that works hard to be fresh and realistic.

It damn nearly succeeds.

Aboard a multinational research station in earth orbit, six scientists are researching that elusive prize, extraterrestrial life. And by golly, it looks like they’ve found it. It’s a single cell that, as the scientists watch, grows from a blob into a multi-lobed organism looking for all the world like a cephalopod, but without the suckers that line the arms of earth-bound models.

They call it Calvin.

Calvin has an amazing growth rate. It moves very fast. Its anti-social demeanour is, to say the least, disagreeable. Its appetite is voracious. And what do you think its favourite food is? And where do you think it might find lots of that?

There’s contrivance in this array of Calvinist attributes sustaining a two-hour film in which screenplay, staging and performance work together to develop into tensions that strive mightily to achieve credibility and come close to succeeding.

It doesn’t come quite down to last scientist standing. After a string of mishaps, ranging from mechanical and structural failure on the station and a total breakdown of communication with Earth, it comes down to two escape pods, one carrying medico Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Calvin, the other carrying biologist Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson). Imagine the worst possible outcome.

At all cinemas

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