There may be intelligent life hidden on Mars, but there’s precious little of it hidden in Hollywood if this feeble ‘Alien’ clone is anything to go by. Exactly how this clunky, by-the-numbers sci-fi horror managed to blast free of the DVD bin and engage A-list stars like Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds is hard to figure out, because it certainly wasn’t the script. Maybe the idea of floating round a tin can gesticulating at blue-screen beasties just sounded like a fun way to kill time.
That said, nothing about Gyllenhaal’s performance suggests he's enjoying himself. As the International Space Station’s in-house doctor David Jordan, he’s so glum and low-key that you suspect he’s trying to blend into the steel-grey background, hoping that if he keeps quiet no one will notice he’s even in this misfire. Reynolds is louder but not much more fun, and they’re joined by a global cast of dead-meat space technicians whose principal mission is to spout statistics and get picked off one by one.
Which they duly are, by a mysterious Martian life form that’s been frozen in the planet’s crust for millennia and has now been brought to Earth for study. There’s nothing particularly memorable about the critter in question – it’s smart, strong and insatiably hungry, but aren’t they always? A handful of tense moments and some neat ‘Gravity’ style effects just about keep ‘Life’ ticking along. But the direction by Daniel Espinosa (he of the dire 'Child 44') is seriously shoddy – there's a moment towards the end when everything seems suddenly to happen at once, and not in a good way – and the total lack of originality is disappointing.