Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds play an enjoyably gory game of hide-and-seek with a hungry alien
The crew of a space station is picked off, one by one, by an extraterrestrial life form which seems to view the human contents of the craft as some kind of alien finger buffet. And if that premise sounds more than a little familiar, thats because Daniel Espinosas enjoyable sci-fi horror movie shares narrative DNA with everything from Tarkovskys Solaris to Danny Boyles Sunshine to, most glaringly of all, Ridley Scotts Alien. But although this is undeniably an Alien rip-off, its an Alien rip-off that announces itself with a dizzyingly audacious zero-gravity single-shot sequence in which Ryan Reynolds wrests a wounded satellite out of orbit using a rob otic grabber claw. With this stunning set piece, cinematographer Seamus McGarvey more than meets the challenge set by Emmanuel Lubezkis Oscar-winning work on Gravity.
The satellite contains Martian soil samples, within which is an inert single-celled organism: incontrovertible proof of life on Mars. In the name of scientific research (or of narrative convenience) the head researcher (British actor Ariyon Bakare) decides to jump-start the organism out of its stasis, and is rewarded by a rapidly growing glob of gelatinous malice. Aliens infamous John Hurt chest-eruption scene is matched for gruesome relish if not shock value by a sequence in which the creature force-feeds itself to a key character. Not all of the actors have enough screen time to really register, but Jake Gyllenhaal, playing a jaded medic who no longer feels he belongs on Earth, has a brooding, soulful quality; the electricity between his character and Rebecca Fergusons safety officer crackles satisfyingly.
There are some pacing issues: the obligatory despairing all is lost sequence at the end of the second act drags, and is not improved by one of the remaining survivors quoting chunks of the insipid childrens bedtime book Goodnight Moon. And the slightly predictable nature of the plotting doesnt match the inventiveness of the exuberantly grisly special effects. But the screenplays policy of exploring every possible worst-case scenario culminates in a deliciously bleak, if not entirely unexpected payoff.
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