Sci-fi horror is a genre of its own, with plenty of good examples, topped by "Alien" (1979) and its sequel "Aliens" (1986), "Event Horizon" (1997), "Solaris" (2002) and "Moon" (2009). Just earlier this year, there was "Passengers" also about being abandoned in space, but was more of drama than horror. I was attracted to watch this new film solely because of its stellar cast, not knowing what it was exactly all about. Now that I had seen "Life", I think it fully deserves to join the aforementioned list.
The film is set in an International Space Station which had in its possession a living organism from Mars -- a small, innocent-looking gelatinous organism they called Calvin. One day, Calvin revealed its true nature by crushing a crew member's hand and devouring a laboratory rat. Alarmed at the creature's display of violence, the staff of the space station spring into action to contain it. However, will they be able to arrest its growth and aggressiveness before it kills everyone on board?
The story began very slowly, I was starting to think this may not be worth the watch. However from the moment I saw Calvin in action, he did not allow my eyes to look away from the screen again. The first human death scene by Calvin was ghastly and graphic, involving a most unexpected victim. The suspense was so intense within that claustrophobic spaceship as Calvin seemed unperturbed by anything the humans tried on him.
Jake Gyllenhaal (as Dr. David Jordan) can really tackle these gripping roles with realistic conviction. Ryan Reynolds (as Rory Adams) had his characteristic sense of humor about him, but of course. Russian actress Olga Dihovichnaya (as Katerina Golovkina) had a memorably nightmarish spacewalking scene. British actors Rebecca Ferguson (as Dr. Miranda North) and Ariyon Bakare (as Hugh Derry) play other ill-fated crew members.
Hiroyuki Sanada really impressed me as senior astronaut Sho Kendo. This Japanese actor evoked the spirit of Toshiro Mifune in his look and attitude. We had seen him before in the iconic film "Ringu" (1998) and in several English-language films like "The Last Samurai" (2003), "The Wolverine", "47 Ronin", and "The Railway Man" (all in 2013). He actually had a similar role as the captain in the space horror film "Sunshine" (2007).
The technical aspects of the film were top-notch. Cinematography, film editing, sound editing and mixing, production design, visual effects and especially that amazing musical score were all so effective in capturing and holding on to the attention of the viewers. Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (only on his second US film after "Safe House" in 2012) had me mesmerized in suspense from then up to the final frame. 9/10.