Life review: There’s a very familiar alien monster in those space-station vents

Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds are stuck between an extra-terrestrial and a hard place in this Alien knock-off

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Director: Daniel Espinosa
Cert: 15A
Genre: Sci-Fi
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya
Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins

A starry crew aboard the International Space Station sends a snark-talking Ryan Reynolds to snaffle a space probe returning from Mars with soil samples. Mission accomplished, lead scientist Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) pokes at the specimen until, oops, it transforms into a vagina-gremlin-starfish-monster that starts picking the crew off one by one.

Using a fabulously opportunistic bluff, Life screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have "refused to rule out the possibility that Life is a prequel to Venom". They're talking about the incoming Spider-Man spin-off, but, having sat through their new space opera, we could have sworn they were talking about Venom, the 1981 Alien knock-off, featuring a black mamba in lieu of Alien's tentacled genital-faced extra-terrestrials.

Life, to tell the unhappy truth, looks awfully like a prequel to an Alien clone. Except set in space. And featuring tentacled, genital-faced extra-terrestrials. You see the problem, here?

The familiarities don't end there. Rebecca Ferguson's security-obsessed doctor plays awfully like Tasha Yar fan-fiction from someone who never actually got around to watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Picture the Chief Security Officer of the USS Enterprise-D minus the charm, intellect or charisma.)


Mostly, Ferguson is stuck on repeat as she repeatedly explains what is going on, repeatedly: There’s a monster in the vents. Got it?

Overlapping dialogue makes it tricky to tell one under-developed character from another, although we do discern the odd howler of a line ("This is some Re-Animator shit") and reliable old frantic Jake Gyllenhaal of Source Code fame.

There is some good news on the tech specs. The recycled plot is very much at odds with Seamus McGarvey's knockout floating cinematography, Nigel Phelps' multi-dimensional space station designs, and (Safe House) director Daniel Espinosa's aptitude for white-knuckle runarounds.

Arriving in the same season as Alien: Covenant, Life may well prove the superior Alien rip-off. Get your Alien counterfeits: five for twenty. Apparently, in space no one can hear you plagiarise.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic