Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien is the story of a crew from outer space who encounter an alien that’s trying to kill its crew as they’re trying to return to Earth. From an original story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett with a screenplay by O’Bannon and additional work from David Giler and Walter Hill. The film is a sci-fi horror film where a space crew tries to fight a mysterious creature. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, and Ian Holm. Alien is a chilling yet engrossing sci-fi horror film from Ridley Scott.
On their way home to Earth, the commercial ship Nostromo is carrying 20 million tones of mineral ore and refinery with a crew of seven led by Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt). With a crew that includes executive officer Kane (John Hurt), navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), senior science officer Ash (Ian Holm), engineers Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto), and warrant officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). The crew receive a transmission to discover a nearby planet as the crew board a shuttle though not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. Dallas, Kane, and Lambert investigate the planet where they find a ship while Brett and Parker try to repair the shuttle due to its shaky landing where Ripley decodes the transmission message realize that something isn’t right.
When Dallas, Kane, and Lambert go inside the ship, Kane discovers eggs inside a chamber where a creature becomes attached to his helmet. After recovering Kane from the chamber, Dallas and Lambert try to re-enter the shuttle but Ripley refuses due to quarantine protocol until Ash opens the door against Ripley’s word. With the creature attached to Kane’s head, Ash tries to dissect the thing only to realize that its blood is filled with acid bringing more problems to everyone. Though the creature was eventually detached and dead, Ash still wants to dissect as Kane seems to have recovered only for something to go wrong. With an alien creature now on the loose and there’s no conventional weapons on board the main ship, Dallas and the crew decides to go after and kill the alien. Eventually, things get worse where Ripley makes a discovery that challenges everything that’s happening as she and remaining survivors decide to flee and fight off the alien.
The film is essentially a sci-fi horror story where a crew answer a distress call only to discover something wrong as an alien is on board their ship as they have to kill the damn thing. That’s pretty much it in the schematics of a horror-suspense film set in space where characters are eventually killed off one-by-one. Still, it’s a film that is about a crew that is very diverse as they would do things that would threaten their livelihood. Leading all of this is Ellen Ripley, a protagonist that is not many others before her as she is this headstrong woman that knows what to do and is willing to follow rules but knows that they can be broken if necessary.
Though she isn’t the head of this commercial ship, she is the film’s conscience of sorts following the events where they land on this planet after she decodes the warning. When one of its member is attacked by some alien life form early in the film, she knows that decision is made since she fears that bringing something alien would risk everything. Yet, it would the Ash character that would drive everything that would happen afterwards. Ash is a very complex character who is driven more by science though his motives become much more mysterious as the film progress. Notably as his actions would eventually cost the lives of the crew who are trying to kill the alien.
Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay definitely creates a lot of chilling suspense and stakes that occur throughout the film. Notably as it would involve individuals who are all quite flawed as they’re facing an alien that is going to kill them. All they want to do by the film’s second half is to just kill this alien and go home. In the schematics of horror, it becomes more complicated due to the actions of one character as well as a computer that would further raise the stakes. O’Bannon’s script is truly amazing for the way it plays things out that would lead to a climatic battle between the alien and whoever is left.
Ridley Scott’s direction is truly mesmerizing from the way he films the scenes in outer space with the stars and planets to the intensity of the suspense in these claustrophobic vents and hallways inside the space station. With these engaging compositions of the way he opens the film to introduce the characters with this simple yet wide shot of the pods opening. He lets the audience soak up the world they live inside this space station with amazing rooms including this one room where the mother computer runs everything as Captain Dallas tries to figure out the destination and such where he would find this distress call. By the time the film goes into this mysterious planet where crew members enter this very strange spaceship.
The way the art direction helps set the mood as well as the creature effects that would reveal the alien, that is designed by H.R. Giger, to help move the story forward from this entrancing sci-fi suspense into a horror film where the characters are trying to kill this alien. The horror isn’t as gory as one would expect but the way the alien would pick off a character and why things go out of their control adds to the stakes of survival. What Scott creates in the end is a masterfully-crafted and entrancing film that definitely adds a lot of nuance and ideas to what a sci-fi film should be.
Cinematographer Derek Vanlit does excellent work with the film‘s evocative cinematography that is filled with dark colors and lighting shades to play up the brooding tone of the film in its many interior scenes. Editors Terry Rawlings and Peter Weatherly, with additional work by David Crowther for its 2003 director’s cut, do fantastic work with the editing by utilizing rhythmic cuts to play up the suspense as well as stylish dissolves for the film‘s sleeping pod scenes to introduce the characters. Production designers Michael Seymour and Roger Christian, with set decorator Ian Whittaker and art director Leslie Dilley, do brilliant work with the amazing set pieces created such as the interior of the alien ship as well as the look of the Nostromo space ship in its exterior along with its interior sets including the mother room.
Costume designer John Mollo does nice work with the costumes from the underwear the crew wear in the sleeping pods to the different array of uniforms and casual clothing that expresses each character along with the look of the astronaut suits. Special effects supervisors Nick Allder and Brian Johnson do amazing work with the special effects such as the Nostromo miniature look as well as the exterior look of outer space and the movement of the alien and creature design. Sound editor Jim Shields and mixer (for its 2003 director’s cut) Andrew I. King do superb work with the sound from the way the alien creature screams to the noises of computers and engines inside the space station. The music score of Jerry Goldsmith is wonderful for its orchestral flourishes to play out the drama and suspense that occurs throughout the film.
The casting by Mary Goldberg and Mary Selway is phenomenal for the ensemble that is created as it includes some small work from Helen Horton as the voice of the mother computer and Bolaji Badejo as the alien. Notable performances include Yaphet Kotto as the cynical yet humorous Parker and Harry Dean Stanton as the witty Brett. Veronica Cartwright is very good as the highly-emotional Lambert who is overwhelmed by the situation that is happening though is more in control as a navigator. John Hurt is excellent as the executive officer Kane whose discovery of the alien eggs would have awful repercussions for him. Tom Skerritt is superb as Nostromo captain Dallas who tries to maintain control of everything while dealing with the alien creature.
Ian Holm is great as the science officer Ash whose desire to explore the alien as well as undermining protocol for mysterious reasons adds to a very complex performance to his character. Finally, there’s Sigourney Weaver in her breakthrough performance as Ellen Ripley. In the first of four films where she would play the character, Weaver brings a real sense of control as a woman that is trying to make sure things don’t go wrong while having to deal with the implications of all that is happened. It’s a truly spectacular performance for the actress as it’s also one of the greatest female protagonists ever played on film.
Alien is an outstanding and intensely-mesmerizing sci-fi horror film from Ridley Scott led by an incredible performance from Sigourney Weaver. The film is definitely not just one of Ridley Scott’s great films but also one of the definitive films of the sci-fi genre in terms of its ambition and suspense. Notably as it’s a film that creates tension and chills where a space crew tries to fight off an alien where everything is on the line. In the end, Alien is a stunning yet ravishing film from Ridley Scott.
Ridley Scott Films: (The Duellists) - Blade Runner - (Legend) - (Someone to Watch Over Me) - (Black Rain) - (Thelma & Louise) - (1492: Conquest of Discovery) - (White Squall) - (G.I. Jane) - (Gladiator (2000 film)) - (Hannibal) - (Matchstick Men) - (Kingdom of Heaven) - (A Good Year) - (American Gangster) - (Body of Lies) - (Robin Hood (2010 film)) - Prometheus - (The Counselor) - (Exodus) - The Martian - (Alien: Covenant) - All the Money in the World
Alien Films: Aliens - Alien 3 - Alien Resurrection
© thevoid99 2012
I like the tagline of the film it's something like "In the outer space,no one can hear you cry".A great marriage of sci-fi and horror genre.
Definitely. I finally got a chance to see this yesterday in its entirety. Man, it's fucking awesome. I need to see Aliens and then Prometheus.
Fantastic review! This is one of my favorite horros and sci-fi movies, Sigourney Weaver is wonderful and I liked how you mentioned Holm he was also fanstastic in this. The creature itself is just mesmerizing, very well deserved Oscar win.
@Sati-I enjoyed the hell out of this film. Notably the alien creatures. I wish we had more female badasses like Ripley. She's one of the greatest characters ever.
Really? that good? should I finally get into the Alien bandwagon and see it? probably! Great review, as always!
@Diana-Start with this film. Then see Aliens.
It's pretty much one of the best sci-fi films ever.
Every instant of this film screams: classic!, and even though it's horror, and I'm not always comfortable watching the genre, the Alien/Aleines viewing is always a great experience. I want to re-visit the two first movies before Prometheus.
@Leysa-It was on TV recently so I decided to take the advantage to see the film in anticipation for Prometheus. I hope to see Aliens as well.
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