'Life' unleashes alien in scary confines of space

Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Life'

(CNN)"Alien" established outer space as the ultimate "nowhere to run" haunted house 40 years ago, and "Gravity" more recently highlighted its still-harrowing if more mundane aspects. "Life" rather economically mashes up the two, producing a taut, suspenseful thriller that's more enjoyable the less you think about it.

While it's unwise to read too much into such matters, "Life's" timing can't be viewed in a vacuum. Not only is another edition in the "Alien" franchise due later this year, but it also follows "Arrival," which proffered a more benevolent view of undulating extraterrestrials. There's an obvious underlying science-fiction metaphor in probin