By Bob Bloom
So, have you seen this one?
The crew of a spacecraft is menaced by an alien life form that, to ensure its own survival, begins killing the humans one by one.
Any guesses? Anyone?
The 1958 B-sci-fi-horror flick, “It! The Terror from Beyond Space?” Nope.
Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, “Alien?” Wrong again.
What I’m talking about is “Life,” a new sci-fi thriller that, while entertaining when viewing, features predictable and nearly cliché-like situations.
In many respects, “Life” is more intellectually stimulating and science-based than its predecessors. That doesn’t mean, however, that it avoids some genre formulae.
The plot is triggered by the rescue of the contents from an unmanned space probe hit by a meteor on its return voyage from Mars.
The soil specimens are retrieved by the crew of the International Space Station, which secures the Martian soil in its lab for study and experimentation.
The six-person international crew is comprised of two Americans, two Britons, a Russian and a Japanese.
The astronauts are defined more by their duties than their personalities: a biologist, a doctor, a pilot, a commander, a computer technician — you get the idea.
The biologist begins examining the soil samples, discovering a nucleus or cell or whatnot that pertains to a living organism.
He begins cultivating it, and the wee fella begins to grow and thrive.
(A side note: A contest is held back on Earth to name the discovery, and Calvin is chosen. So, from then on, everyone refers to the alien as Calvin.)
After a slight mishap, Calvin appears to go into a hibernation-like state. The biologist tries stimulating it with electricity to wake it up. Bad mistake!
The shock triggers the events that lead to the bulk of the film’s action: a cat-and-mouse game of crew vs. the ever-growing Calvin. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know who will come out on top.
Despite the movie’s scientific-heavy jargon, the script does contain some hoary dialogue, most of which the poor biologist is forced to deliver: “Calvin does not hate us, but he must kill us,” is one example.
The cast features Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya and Ariyon Bakare as the crew.
The suspense is trying to figure out who dies in what order — which does lead to some surprises.
The finale, unfortunately, creates a situation that a first-year film student can determine within 30 seconds.
Otherwise, “Life” is fun, a visceral and fast-paced — running time is 103 minutes — thriller that will keep you energized and entertained.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
2½ stars out of 4
(R), language, sci-fi violence and terror