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Close future. The several-person crew of the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth, is waiting for a capsule that will deliver samples from the surface of Mars. Not without some problems, they manage to intercept it.

The delivered material is immediately transferred to the laboratory and analyzed to find any trace of life. Such a person is discovered very quickly. Martian orange dust turns out to hide a microscopic element. Using various means, scientists try to provoke it into even the smallest reaction. This is a historic moment. The director, Daniel Espinosa, is able to build the appropriate tension and convey the importance of this event. Life arouses considerable curiosity from the very first minutes.

Science fiction cinema has probably provided all the visions of extraterrestrial beings that our imagination can provide. In this context, the inconspicuous opening of Espinosa’s film enters into dialogue with the achievements of the genre. This is not about another humanoid monster, but about a tiny particle that is elusive to the sense of sight. The most important thing is that it proves that we are not alone in the universe. In film narrative Life this discovery is a breakthrough on the same level as the alien invasion in Independence Day.

I wish that Life it no longer focuses on expressing the moment of delight itself and the inevitable questions that arise as to what attitude to take towards this discovery. Espinosa quickly shifts into a higher gear, at the same time falling into quite worn-out plot tracks, and a pure monster horror begins. The cell grows rapidly. At first it resembles a flower, then it takes on an octopus-like shape. It is an intelligent and extremely aggressive life form. Of course, at some point the situation gets out of control. An alien creature named Calvin escapes from the laboratory.

Daniel Espinosa has an idea for this movie. It convinces me with the opening sequence, shot in one long take. The creators show us around the tight interior of the station, offering a dense and cool atmosphere. We also meet all the crew members. The characters may not be anonymous, but also completely ordinary. Even such a charismatic actor as Jake Gyllenhaal does not stand out. However, the closer to the finale, the more effectively the director builds the dramatic weight of the film. It is no longer just about surviving at the station. Life is a type of cinema whose main goal is to create a mood of horror and helplessness. At times it can be truly terrifying. The great strength of this production is undoubtedly the intriguing, repulsive image of the alien. How it moves, evolves and what methods it uses to eliminate subsequent victims. As if in defiance of horror convention, Espinosa often shows it in its entirety so that the viewer can take a closer look at it. And he succeeds. It doesn’t take away from Calvin’s constant aura of mystery.

In some places, not entirely logical decisions made by seemingly trained scientists can be disturbing. Obvious safety rules are broken, giving the impression of being pretextual. The plot has to move forward somehow. It may be a detail, but Calvin’s rapid growth in size is truly surprising. Of course, this is complete fiction. The creators can propose any course of events and it cannot be questioned. However, such a quick transformation of the alien is surprising and generates a disturbing contrast to the convention that strives for relative scientific realism. It’s pure science fiction, but very close to us in time and devoid of stylistic extravagance.

Life cannot avoid comparisons to Alien – the eighth passenger of the Nostromo. Espinosa’s film uses a virtually identical plot structure and takes a very similar, skeptical stance towards space exploration. Life, despite falling into well-known clichés, is never boring for a moment. Predictability does not prevent you from sitting on the edge of your seat throughout the entire session. The ending of the film is completely satisfying, giving a trivial title new meanings and remaining in the memory long after the credits roll. Daniel Espinosa balances between a quote and a copy of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. If you want to learn, you can only learn from the best. Maybe that’s why Life is such a good movie.

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