What is Alien? For those who have been living under a sci-fi-less rock, it is one of the signature movies by Ridley Scott. The starship Nostromo, a commercial freighter hauling 20,000,000 tons of ore, is heading back to Earth when it is unexpectedly diverted to an unexplored world due to what appears to be a distress beacon. Uninterested in science, the crew reluctantly explore only to discover an alien vessel containing a mysterious cargo. When one of them is infected by an unknown organism, they soon find themselves facing a threat they're completely unprepared to deal with.
|Ripley was one of my first fictional crushes.|
Almost everything in the film works from the lighting to the special effects to the performances to the script to the pacing. There's two versions of the film available today with the original as well as Director's cut which adds some missing footage. Between the two, I have to state I prefer the original. While the Director's Cut is perfect for fans who want to see a longer and more subdued film, I think the original benefits from its slightly punchier pace. Either way, the movie takes its time getting to the monster and is all the better for it.
|I love the cryopods. Don't ask me why.|
|So much is said with so little, unlike its successor Prometheus where so little is said with so much.|
There are multiple twists in the movie with regards to the crew but none of which feel contrived. They are just unexpected and signs of just how badly the crew are out of their element. I particularly like Ian Holm's performance as he dances the line between quiet menace and simple social awkwardness. No one gives a bad performance, though, with folk like Captain Dallas trying (vainly) to be heroic while others such as Parker are motivated by greed until the xenomorph's actions drive them to a vengeance-orientated rage. Many of the characters have short arcs, which helps further the sense of emotional stakes--they're not just there to die.
|The xenomorph is never seen clearly but what we do see is terrifying.|
To reference again, the movie's "showing, not telling", I give real props for how subtly all the backstory to the setting is woven into everything. The crew's conversations let us know this is a world where humans have been in space to the point it's routine but haven't yet encountered any alien life (but have protocols set up for the possibility). We know humanity hasn't spread very far from Earth yet has colonized spots like Antarctica. We know money is still the primary motivation for most people and corporations now wield enough authority you don't want to question their decrees. This is all without a single scene of exposition and that applies to later moments like the alien's biology as well as how to deal with it.
|One of the scariest scenes of the movie is entirely seen through the eyes of a cat.|
In conclusion, Alien is one of the classics of the sci-fi genre and helped popularize sci-fi horror for modern audiences. If you're a fan of my blog, you've probably already seen it but my recommendation is you should watch it again if you haven't seen it in a while. It's that good. It's a movie which combines strong performances, special effects, pacing, writing, and world-building all into a creation which is justifiably remembered as one of the best horror movies of all time.