Science Fiction as a genre comes in multiple flavours; there is the impossible science fantasy of Star Wars, the similarly impossible but seemingly plausible Star Trek or the more hard-sci-fi of The Expanse. The reason why I start a review of a film dealing with Life from Mars attacking people on the International Space Station with a discussion on different types of Science Fiction is because people evaluate films differently. Some people prefer scientific accuracy in films that proport to be based in fact, while others value narrative and story above all, so when reading my opinion on this film, remember it is just my opinion.
Set on the international space station a crew of 6 astronauts and scientists, intercept soil samples from Mars. However within those samples is a single-celled organism, proof of life outside earth. Named Calvin by the children of earth, after a series of tests the life form starts to grow and becomes a threat. The crew must then fight for survival and to prevent Calvin from reaching and endangering the Earth.
The best way that I can describe Life is, as a friend of mine said as we walked out of the screening, that it is a combination of Ridley Scott’s Alien and 2013’s Gravity. There are elements of claustrophobic space horror and attempts at realistic science, however, for those with a more analytical mind, the science is not believable at all. For me, though, that didn’t matter so much as while I was watching it, I was gripped by the more Alien-like aspects of tension in tight corridors.
The cinematography is clear and the tiny spaces are well thought out; a less well thought
out film would have poorly plotted out suspenseful action set pieces that do not make spacial sense and leave an audience confused rather than exhilarated. This is helped by a somewhat clear white clinical production design that makes the actors stand out from their background.
Something that helps the film tremendously is that the characters are immensely likeable. With standout performances from Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation fame, having characters that you like helps enormously when rooting for their survival against an alien creature.
There are a few issues with the film now that I have had the time to consider it thoroughly. There are a few plotholes that break the believability of the world, (yeah, yeah I know that sounds weird), some characters make some really stupid decisions and the twist at the end was predictable and somewhat misleading. While I didn’t find these quibbles to be too big a deal while watching the film, a friend of mine commented that these were a deal breaker.
The film isn’t a masterpiece like Alien, and it probably won’t be remembered in the years to come like Alien. It isn’t the most intelligent story, scientifically and at times narratively, but it is a tense and gripping thrill ride that I enjoyed immensely, thanks to a unique creature design, likeable characters and the inventive use of a single space.