Alien (1979)

“Alien life form; looks like it’s been dead a long time.”

Synopsis:
The crew of an interstellar mining ship battles for its survival when it encounters a vicious alien species.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that Ridley Scott’s “frightening, ferocious science-fiction film” — which “incorporates many elements of the horror film” — is “loved by many science-fiction fans” but “despised by others” (really? is it still?). He himself argues (and I agree) that it’s an “underrated”, “extremely scary, well-made, interesting film” — one which could be viewed as simply a “violent, big-budget rip-off of [the] cheap fifties SF film, It! The Terror From Beyond Space” but deserves recognition on its own merits, as a modern-day cult classic. In addition to the “stunning” design work (by H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb, and Michael Seymour) and truly creepy special effects (the “terrifying scene” in which “a creature attaches itself” to John Hurt’s face makes me jump every time), Scott’s direction of the film — essentially an “old dark house” thriller, in which one character after the other is murdered — is “as imaginative as it is (properly) manipulative”, given that he “builds tension by having characters talk in hushed tones, smoke incessantly, drink coffee, pace nervously, sweat, [and] argue”.

Indeed, for an action thriller, Alien is surprisingly character-driven. As Peary points out, this is the “first space film that has working-class heroes rather than scientists and astronauts flying a ship”, and the entire supporting cast — most notably Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas, Harry Dean Stanton as Brett, Veronica Cartwright as Lambert, and Ian Holm as the android “Ash” — give effectively memorable and nuanced performances. In her first starring role, Weaver (as Ripley) is a refreshingly focused and competent leader — so much so that we’re almost willing to forgive Scott for turning her into a temporary sex object during the film’s infamous final “strip” sequence (the precursor to a genuinely terrifying denouement). What’s perhaps scariest of all about this film, however, is the fact that it’s not the alien, but instead the ship’s “home corporation” who is the “real villain of the piece”, given that it willingly “sacrifices people for discovery”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Sigourney Weaver as Ripley
  • Memorable supporting performances across the board
  • Atmospheric cinematography
  • Effectively futuristic sets and production design
  • Excellent special effects
  • A remarkably freaky screenplay

Must See?
Yes, as a modern classic of the genre.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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2 Responses to “Alien (1979)”

  1. A no-brainer must. A modern classic.

    I’ve gained more respect for ‘Alien’. It’s still not my favorite in the series – I much prefer ‘Aliens’ – but an alternate version is now available. That’s the one I just watched. It’s a different kind of ‘Director’s Cut’. In the common ‘Director’s Cut’, deleted footage is simply restored (which, as we all know, is not always a wise move). Ridley did the following: he re-edited by restoring some formerly deleted footage and cutting some previously included footage. The whole adjustment amounts to about 12 minutes of changes but, in my estimation, it makes for a better, sharper film – esp. in the first half; the pacing ends up being a bit slower and more deliberate, which seems to lead to a bigger pay-off as things progress.

    I did see ‘Alien’ on its initial release – and, yes, there was lots to be impressed with: a B-movie elevated to a class act. But when ‘Aliens’ and even ‘Alien3’ followed, I was less inclined to revisit the original film. Seeing it again (and not just for the fact that it was revised), there is certainly lots to admire. The entire design-work, top-down, is first-rate. The ensemble work of the actors is tight and very believable. (Weaver reveals in this installment exactly why her character could easily take on growth and development; it’s rich groundwork.) I’ve gotten over the fact that the alien, fully realized, is much closer to an actual man.

    The film has countless memorable scenes. The tension is undeniable and rather non-stop.

    If I prefer parts 2 & 3, it’s probably because, in part 1, we know and learn almost nothing about the characters. Not that we need to know much for the film’s purposes. But I’m partial to the ‘up the ante’ quality that dominates the sequels. (Although that doesn’t include ‘Alien: Resurrection’; poor bizarre thing.)

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    As everyone says: a classic. One of the all time great scifi films. The follow ups were all inferior.

    Aliens – Theatrical edit ⭐️⭐️; Longer edit ⭐️⭐️⭐️
    Alien 3 – Theatrical edit ⭐️⭐️⭐️; longer edit ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    Alien: Resurrection – Theatrical ⭐️⭐️; extended edit ⭐️⭐️⭐️
    Prometheus – ⭐️⭐️
    Alien: Covenant – ⭐️⭐️

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