It's life, Jim but not as we know it in this entertaining sci-fi chiller

Anyone who's ever chased a particularly fleet footed and elusive spider around their bedroom will know how the cast of this hugely derivative but enjoyable sci-fi chiller feel. Life sees the crew of an international space station terrorised by an alien and boy, is he tricky - always turning up when you least expect it, just like that dirty eight-legged freak on your pillow when you turn in for the evening.      

We are in orbit around earth in a space lab manned by a team of astronauts and scientists investigating life on Mars. A single-cell organism scooped up from a Martian probe seems to be the breakthrough everyone from HG Wells to Bowie has been waiting for but this squiggly jelly baby of DNA is not all he or she or it seems.

Cutely named Calvin (after Coolidge not Klein) he is the real star of a movie which draws to an almost comical extent on both Alien and Gravity. Look out too for a nice reference to John Carpenter's Dark Star in Jake Gyllenhaal's character.

Jake Gyllenhaal shines a light in Life

From his Petri dish crib, our none-too-friendly ET grows up very fast indeed and morphs into a kind of cross between an arachnid and a squid and the rest is well, a more PG-rated Ridley Scott. With the earth spinning in all its glory below, Life ponders the big questions but its basic flaw is that our CGI Martian is just not scary enough. He/she/it just looks too much like one of the creatures from James Cameron's The Abyss.

The slow nervous breakdowns and blind panic of the crew are none too convincing either and released in the jet stream of Arrival and Passengers and ahead of Alien: Covenant, space fatigue may be setting in among cinema audiences.

Your attention span here will depend on how many airlocks snapping shut just in time, shots of NASA white goods disintegrating in zero gravity, and close-ups of Jake's doe eyes you can take. No more than a extended episode of the Twilight Zone from 1962, Life - like life itself - does have a nasty punch line in store and for that alone, it is smarter than your average sci-fi thriller.

Alan Corr @corralan