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3 stars
A missed opportunity to tell an interesting story

Life by Daniel Espinosa is Alien-style space horror, but instead of the Nostromo, the action takes place closer to home. The small crew of the International Space Station is tasked with analyzing a sample returned from Mars. The sample contains living cells capable of developing into a multi-cellular organism, and said organism quickly starts causing trouble.

The first half of the movie works reasonably well, but the careless actions of the main characters and the predictable use of various horror tropes turn the movie into forgettable fare. The creature itself is interesting enough; the battle of wits between it and the bumbling astronauts that man the station makes one wonder whether Earth might not be better off being taken over by the critters.

The acting is passable, but if you’re hoping for a breakout performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, you’ll be disappointed. He’s phoning it in as Dr. David Jordan, an apathetic long term tenant of the station, though you could be forgiven for mistaking him for the station’s android. I found Ariyon Bakare most memorable as biologist Hugh Derry, but the script stopped short of giving him anything interesting to do.

What you’re left with is an okay thriller that has a few visually powerful moments and an interesting creature, but that otherwise adds nothing to the genre. There are many stories about alien life that still deserve telling; this one we could have done without. 3 stars.