I recently watched the latest scifi thriller 'Life', starring Ryan Reynolds. With Reynolds on board, I expected a comedy element, but for once, despite the usual wisecracking, he played it straight. The basic premise is nothing new, an alien lifeform is brought amongst the human crew in a claustrophobic setting, causing mayhem.
The near future timeline used the International Space Station as the scenario and a damaged mars probe introduces the alien. Without dropping too many spoilers, it is well worth watching, as its hyper realistic sets are reminiscent of 'Gravity' with technical accuracy at the fore. Where it falls down is the usual liberties taken with the laws of physics and common sense, elements which are always first to suffer in scifi and thrillers respectively. For example, the probe is damaged by a micrometeroid shower and arrives in near Earth orbit at a high velocity, but rather than docking gently with the ISS, has to be snatched by a robot arm as it hurtles by. Presumably to alleviate this gaffe, the actual capture isn't directly visible, but indicated by a loud bang and cheers from a free-floating Reynolds, just visible outside the observation dome.
After this suspension of disbelief and blatant ignorance of practicality, the film cuts to examination of the martian soil samples retrieved from the probe. This sequence is handled much better, with lots of interior shots of the ISS and the usual scientific mumbo jumbo going on. The zero-gee activity of the crew moving between modules is very clumsy, compared to the fluid motion demonstrated by the athletic Sandra Bullock in Gravity and the lithe Carrie Ann Moss in Red Planet and I found myself looking for strings on the actors backs!
However, with these slights aside, the film quickly progresses into a very interesting take on the bug hunt kind of film, although it quickly appears that it isn't the humans who are doing the hunting.
Like the eponymous Alien, the creature evolves swiftly throughout the duration of the film, from small beginnings and each incarnation, again like Giger's baleful creation, are distinct and interesting in their own right.
The latter half unfortunately falls foul of silly scriptwriting leaving the supposedly professional and level headed astronauts making silly common sense mistakes and falling foul of dangers along the way, but wraps up nicely to a satisfying denouement.
Well worth watching with a few beers and a tub of popcorn, as the regular shocks and palpable tensions keep the action rolling along at a respectable pace and for once it does have a really good creature too!