Alien (1979) 4.9/5 (7)


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Rating: The Good – 93.5
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Duration: 117  mins
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton

Ridley Scott’s seminal film is a classic of both the sci-fi and horror genres. It tells the story of the mining ship Nostromo and its crew who are asked to land on an uncharted planet to investigate a crashed spacecraft. Things take a turn for the horrific when one of the crew comes back with a creature attached to his face. Made with a level of discipline and patience not often demonstrated in Hollywood films, this genuinely terrifying film slowly reels you into its futuristic world by gently introducing you to the ship, the crew, the technology, and finally the hostile planet they have landed on. The symmetry of the interior shots on board the Nostromo is clearly influenced by Kubrick’s 2001 but Scott’s vision is somewhat darker. Unlike the clean spartan spacecrafts of 2001 we have a grimy and cluttered industrial ship, an idea that took root and defined almost every space-based sci-fi flick ever since. The action doesn’t get going until about midway through but the wait only serves to heighten the tension of the later scenes and the sense of alien intrusion. And once the alien does appear, H.R. Giger’s design of the creature (in its different stages of maturation) combined with Scott’s notion for how it should behave are so deeply primal and bone-chilling that they seemingly tap into the deepest reaches of our psyche.

The cast, replete with serious heavy hitters, is uniformly superb and their freedom to improvise their lines paid off in spades as the authenticity that Scott’s vision generates so well is only compounded. John Hurt, Ian Holm, and of course Sigourney Weaver as Ripley deliver truly masterful performances but the rest aren’t too far behind them. Alien is what happens when every piece of the film-making puzzle comes together in mutually inspiring fashion. Scott’s direction was commanding, the cast’s acting was perfectly in sync, Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting score was revolutionary, Dan O’Bannon’s story & screenplay was as imaginative and as disciplined as they come, while Giger’s creature design and Michael Seymour’s production design were on a different level to anything the science fiction genre had offered up before. Yes, Alien is truly a case of cinematic perfection.

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