Alien (1979)

Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Dan O’Bannon

Alien is held as a classic film for its use of science fiction and horror and as such it is a must see. For the longest time I personally heralded it as a great film, but it finally came a time when I needed to see it again. Really it was probably all a bit deceiving as I sang its praises because in actuality I have not seen the film for so long that as I sat down to watch it again last night, I could not recall anything about it other than the famous dinner scene. So with that in mind, this viewing is almost as if I was rediscovering it for the first time all over again. The last time I saw it was when I was just a kid and I couldn’t remember it, heck I probably shouldn’t have been watching it, but my parents were always fairly liberal when it came to letting me see more mature films as a kid.

The concept of the film is pretty much the best haunted house idea ever, set in space. The Nostromos is a cargo ship out in the middle of nowhere essentially and when the crew of 7 are awoken prematurely by the ships system, “Mother”, they must investigate an unknown signal from a nearby planet. When they venture down, they bust their ship and discover another, foreign one, crashed on the planet. Soon they find a strange field of eggs and one of the crew members, Ash (John Hurt), has a not too happy encounter with a small alien. Breaking protocol, the captain (Tom Skerritt) brings him back on board and soon all hell breaks loose as the ships third in command, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), must fight for her and her crew’s lives.

When the slow beginning credits sprung up I knew then I was in for it. The setting, mood and music say everything you need to know about what is to come, but I was also amazed to see the cast for this film. Not only is it directed by Ridley Scott, a great filmmaker, but it stars John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt and Veronica Cartwright. The small cast, caught in a claustrophobic environment with a menacing alien, shines in the film, adding that much to the mystery and intensity of the film. Sigourney Weaver is generally the one that gets the most attention for her portrayal of Ripley, the badass woman who faces off against the Alien, and she was fantastic, but I felt she was only as good as the rest of the cast, which is still pretty outstanding.

I would like to give all the credit in the world to Ridley Scott for putting together a film as tense and mysterious as this. The whole first half of the film is slow and moody, giving the viewer a sense of impending doom. The use of negative space is brilliant, causing the viewer to expect something to pop out that when it does it is still terrifying and when it doesn’t it is just that much more scary and ominous. The lack of dialogue coupled with the slow, prodding music score by Jerry Goldsmith is brilliant. Scott does such a great job of setting up the action to come in the second half of the film. If I had one beef with the film, it might be that they showed too much of the alien. The unknown is terrifying, which is why the first half worked as well as it did. Revealing what they did in the second half made it a little less scary, but it was still effective.

When the film ended I was initially upset because there I was expecting Ripley to make things happen and in the end she was just in survival mode; it wasn’t as BA as I thought it would be. But upon some reflection, I think I liked that ending much better because it seems the perfect ending to the story that was being told. Perhaps in the sequels to come her antics as a badass woman with a chip on her shoulder will make more sense, but here it happens as it should. Amazing that to this point I haven’t even mentioned the technical aspects of the film, the special effects and design. They were both amazingly well done, especially for 1979. It is strange to think that this came out just two years after Star Wars because of how mature it is. I love Star Wars, I don’t want to send the wrong message, it’s just that film is a fun adventure, this one is a hopeless horror film. Alien was a great film experience and I can’t wait to continue in the series.


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