Susan Granger’s review of “Life” (Columbia Pictures/Sony/Skydance)
Several years ago, renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking cautioned that contact with alien life could spell disaster for the human race: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the American Indians.”
But Hawking’s grim warning has not deterred cosmic exploration.
After Mission Specialist Rory Adams’ (Ryan Reynolds) risky retrieval of a damaged capsule containing valuable soil samples from Mars, the crew of the International Space Station’s Pilgrim 7 has reason to celebrate.
Along with Adams, astronauts Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada), Ekaterina Golovinka (Olga Dihovichnaya), and Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) are concluding their eight-month exploratory mission.
And when Science Officer isolates a microscopic single-cell organism in a petri dish and feeds it glycerin, it becomes the first proof of extraterrestrial life. Satellite viewers from Earth cheer and a group of children from New York name the specimen “Calvin” after their Calvin Coolidge School.
Resembling a translucent, star-shaped octopus, Calvin begins to grow, quickly adapting to its environment, becoming stronger and smarter. As excitement builds, Calvin escapes containment, becoming a multi-tentacle predator, extinguishing members of the crew one-by-one, despite their often foolhardy attempts to save one another.
As the Science Officer observes: “Life’s very existence requires destruction.”
Scripted by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (“Deadpool,” “Zombieland”) and stylishly helmed by Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House,” “Easy Money”), the futuristic concept seems scientifically plausible, grounded in its own horrific reality.
Seamus McGarvey’s sweeping cinematography reveals the claustrophobically cramped containment of the eerie space station, while composer Jon Ekstrand’s score enhances the sinister suspense.
(Full Disclosure: My son, Don Granger, is Executive Producer of “Life.”)
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Life” is an intense 8 – a tantalizing thriller.