In real life, the future of the International Space Station was debated just this week in Congress. NASA is gradually transitioning away from shouldering the project's annual budget of more than $3 billion, to a new role of helping to facilitate commercial space travel.
On the screen, however, the ISS has become the scene of a frightening new life form—and Hollywood's latest example of giving a movie meticulous treatment that's worthy of the best scientific minds on the planet.
"Life," which opened on Friday and stars A-list actors Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, centers on the groundbreaking discovery that's long been the holy grail of space geeks everywhere—evidence of biological life on Mars. As is often the case with aliens on the big screen, the crew's elation over the microscopic organism quickly devolves into fear and a struggle for survival.
If all that sounds familiar...it is: The formula's been tried before in countless sci-fi/horror forerunners. Yet this time around, much of "Life's" plot revolves around science, making it part of a wave of recent Hollywood productions like "The Martian," "Arrival," and "Passengers" that don't rely as heavily on the traditional extravaganza of big-budget special effects.
Both chilling and cerebral, "Life" has its fair share of CGI-enhanced moments. Yet the narrative is infused with hefty doses of humanity—even as it lovingly embraces science in ways a microbiologist or astrophysicist can fully appreciate—and still grounded enough for non-scientific lay people.