Beginning with a slow, anti-gravity tour of the International Space Station we are introduced to the six human stars of Life. It’s an impressive introduction, reminiscent of the Oscar winning work on 2013 movie Gravity, and culminating in a particularly tense moment with Ryan Reynolds heading outside to try and use a robotic claw in order to grab a damaged satellite which is hurtling towards them. The satellite contains samples collected from Mars, so missing it would have been a huge blow for their mission. In hindsight though, it probably would have been best to just let that thing spiral out into space…
Next up, we spend a bit of time getting to know our crew. All of them are interesting enough – Jake Gyllenhaal is a medic, up on the space station for 400 plus days now and preferring life in space to that down on Earth. Ryan Reynolds is basically Wade Wilson in space, but that’s OK. And Rebecca Ferguson is our the safety officer. There’s a scientist, and some other important crew members but we’re not really given a lot of time to get to know them all properly. They’re all good people though, none of whom deserve to die. Unfortunately though, that’s what they’re here for – nothing more than a gourmet buffet for our latest arrival.
That latest arrival is found within the soil samples that were retrieved from the damaged satellite/probe. A single-celled organism which appears to be lifeless and in a dormant state. The crew, excited at the magnitude of discovering of life on Mars, decide it would be a good idea to try and bring it back to life. The introduction of heat, food and oxygen eventually prove successful and the cell begins moving, and then growing. Slowly at first, and then quite rapidly. It’s wonderful to see life developing in this way and the excitement is also felt back on Earth where they’ve even held a competition among the schools to give it a name. A child from the winning school delivers that name to the world and the crew from a crowded Times Square… and it is, Calvin! Not sure what name I would have chosen, but it definitely wouldn’t have been Calvin.
The cute starfish like blob called Calvin continues to grow, intelligently extending out to explore the gloved hand of the scientist reaching into the contained unit to examine it. And then it decides to grab, and slowly mutilate that hand until it’s completely broken and disfigured. When the hand is finally released and withdrawn for some much needed medical attention, we discover that Calvin is intelligent enough to push the glove outwards and then work out that if you pick up a sharp probe you can cut through the glove in order to break free. From then on, that blob continues to gain size, strength, and intelligence as it continues to feed on and out-smart the crew.
The slow, painful hand mutilation is just the first in a series of slow uncomfortably gruesome deaths as Calvin explores the space station inside and out, picking off the crew one by one. It’s tense, edge of seat stuff and when the quieter moments came, I suddenly remembered to breath again! The comparisons to Alien are obvious, but as a big fan of the Alien movies I certainly didn’t feel that this was ripping them off in any way at all. This is a hugely enjoyable and satisfying sci-fi horror which continues to provide twists and shocks right up to the predictable but brilliant ending.
My watch-list of movies and TV shows continues to grow, while my spare time continues to shrink. Occasionally though, I’ll manage to tick one off the list, and then try to come up with some words about it that make me sound as though I know what I’m talking about. “Once he has discovered something, he wants to be off onto the next thing, rather than spending time and elaborating” – snippet from my primary school report, confirming that I am, and always have been, easily distracted.