Intelligent life on Mars, perhaps, but none in this by-the-numbers sci-fi horror flick.
There are many ways to spot a bad film while you're watching it. The audience laughing during 'the scary bits', for example? That's a strong indication of a directorial misstep. So, too, checking your watch just fifteen minutes in, or realising you've already picked everything that's going to happen so you start re-writing the script in an attempt to make it legitimately interesting and less derivative.
When all of these indicators make themselves known to you so early on, however, the only real question becomes: why are you bothering at all?
That same question could well be asked of the phenomenal cast assembled for LIFE - a space-based horror film that only succeeds in being based in space. Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson and Japanese A-lister Hiroyuki Sanada all lend their star power to a film that falls well short of deserving it.
To be fair, both the premise and opening scenes showed promise. The crew of the International Space Station retrieve a Mars Rover in possession of soil samples from the Red Planet containint a microscopic, living organism; the first indisputable proof of life beyond Earth. Rather than explore the inevitable and fascinating religious implications such a discovery would have back on earth, however, LIFE immediately turns its tiny sentient blob into an ingenious killing machine...blob, thereby reducing the movie to a dull, by-the-numbers affair that's far closer to Gravity than Alien.
From go-to-woe, too, LIFE suffers from a collection of bizarrely muted performances operating within a remarkably limited emotional range. The differences, for example, between the celebrations over a crew member becoming a father and the horror of witnessing a different crew member torn apart from the inside out are almost impossible to spot. There are innumerable unpredictabilities in filmmaking, but one surefire rule is that when a cast doesn't seem engaged in its own project, the audience's concomitant apathy is assured, and here the cast looks more bored than terrified.
There's little to like about LIFE, and even less hope for the sequel it so blatantly attempts to set up in its final stages.