“I like the hum up here,” says an astronaut, a poetic type who’s been at the space station for a year and a half. He prefers the quiet weightlessness of the place to the unpleasantness of Earth.
This reflection happens early in “Life,” a new sci-fi offering. It’s just about the last moment in the movie where you can sense the hum, because noisy and extremely frantic mayhem is about to be unleashed.
The astronauts secure a probe newly returned from Mars. Onboard are some soil samples that, when mixed with a dollop of water and glucose, combine to create a lifeform. The tiny, innocent-looking thing is adorably nicknamed Calvin.
By the time wisecracking astronaut Ryan Reynolds shouts “Stop calling it Calvin!” — lest the crew grow overly relaxed around this still-unknown entity — it’s already too late.
You do not have to remember “The Thing” or “Alien” to guess that this creature might just turn malevolent. That is the entirety of what the film is about.
“Life” is no better than the average ‘50s B-movie. Its one idea is repeated every 10 minutes so we don’t forget it. Its characters get one personality trait apiece. Actually, some don’t even have traits — just nationalities: There’s the Japanese officer (Hiroyuki Sanada), there’s the Russian commander (Olga Dihovichnaya), etc.
The crew includes sensitive Jake Gyllenhaal, no-nonsense Rebecca Ferguson (from the last “Mission: Impossible” picture) and too-trusting Arion Bakare.
“Life” doesn’t give these decent actors anything much to do except look concerned and babble science-talk, but then it’s not really an actors’ movie. It’s all about getting from A to B.
And on that score, it must be said that director Daniel Espinosa (“Child 44”) knows what he’s doing. There’s nary a wasted moment here, as the suspense hurtles from one terrible incident to the next. Even the steals from “Gravity” are effective.
Sure, most of the dialogue consists of how you unscrew the nozzle to the airlock, but that’s what you expect in a movie like this. The pace is headlong, and Jon Ekstrand’s music provides a wild ride.
Plus, the movie’s got a humdinger of an ending. Let’s not overpraise “Life” — it’s straight schlock — but if you have any taste at all for a certain kind of sci-fi horror, this is a breathless example of the form.
“Life” 2 1/2 stars
Astronauts Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson lead a space-station team working on a Martian soil sample that might contain life. Nothing good can come of this, as the movie hair-raisingly proves — and while this is strictly sci-fi schlock with cardboard characters, it does deliver the goods. With Ryan Reynolds.
Rating: R for violence, language
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Sundance Cinemas, Thorton Place, Cascade Mall