‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ is an oft-quoted term. In Hollywood, the many celluloid imitations produced must make it the most sincere place on earth. That’s probably untrue although that hasn’t stopped frequent mining of the story pool in search of megabucks. ‘Life’ may feel familiar to science-fiction admirers as its plot mirrors the Ridley Scott film ‘Alien’. Akin to cinematic comfort food, it should appeal to undemanding viewers unconcerned about unoriginality where even space is filled with imitators.

The crew aboard the international space station examine a probe from Mars which has a sample inside. Among the station’s crew are David (Jake Gyllenhaal), Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson) and Rory (Ryan Reynolds). Studying the contents, they believe the find may prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life. When the sample begins to gain intelligence events rapidly deteriorate. Trapped and isolated, the crew must find a way to destroy the threat before they reach earth.

‘Life’ is a diverting sci-fi horror yarn using the premise well. It’s been seen several times before but this version is saved by competent performances and great CGI. You’re never sure who will be next target for death’s door with that providing ghoulish fun. Whilst the plot is unimaginative and pedestrian, how Daniel Espinosa’s direction handles the tension and menace hides any script deficiencies. He goes through the usual mechanics well and ensures the film has several unexpected twists.

The cast bring gravitas to ‘Life’ with believable characters facing mortal peril. Although sketchily written, it’s easy following their progress against the alien evil. The other star of the show is the CGI which is suitably amazing. It effectively conveys the isolation within the station’s confines and the vastness of space. Cinema has come a long way from the classic 1930’s space serials with the visual realism of ‘Life’ bringing genuine authenticity.

‘Life’ may not win awards for originality with noticeable nods to ‘Alien’ and others. Its main success is in its creation of atmosphere and flawless special effects. Hopefully a good screenplay will join these elements in future imitations with good ideas always recycled in Hollywood’s dream factory.

Rating out of 10: 6

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