Directed by Ridley Scott
Story by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon
Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton
The crew of an industrial spaceship answers an unknown distress signal and finds themselves confronted with an unknown and dangerous creature.
This movie is one of the landmarks of the science fiction film genre. The story came from a collaboration between Ronald Shusett (Total Recall) and Dan O’ Bannon (Screamers). Four-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (Gladiator) directed the film. The movie features Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) in what would become her most iconic role. The cast also features Tom Skerritt (A River Runs Through It), John Hurt (The Elephant Man), Ian Holm (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), and Harry Dean Stanton (The Rose).
This movie features one of the best dual-genre stories ever written; building a horror story within the constructs of science fiction. The writing is suspenseful from the beginning and, like Jaws, plays on the fear of the unknown. There is a slow build that really allows the suspense to creep up on you. The characters are introduced slowly, with bits and pieces that come together later in the film. The writing also does a nice job as it shifts between science fiction and horror. The entire film has a uniquely claustrophobic feel to it. The characters are all forced to exist in a limited world with an unknown terror. The script also includes very nicely written action sequences that feel right for the film, and help the payoffs to work. There are a lot of twists and turns in this one, and they each work wonderfully. Overall, there isn’t anything to complain about with this story.
The casting for this film brought together a number of great actors and provided them with very unique roles. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. It’s become an iconic character and perhaps her most recognizable work. (She would eventually play the character in three sequels.) Weaver’s performance really captures the emotional tones of the story. Her success comes from the underlying anger that seems to exist beneath the terror and curiosity of her role. She also has a great connection with the rest of the cast.
Tom Skerritt also does wonderful work in this movie. His performance is far more controlled, which fits the writing perfectly. Ian Holm also adds an impressive performance in this one. His role was unique and somewhat complex, and he got it right. John Hurt and Harry Dean Stanton both add great work of their own to the film. One of the keys to this one is the chemistry the cast has. The delivery of the dialogue and the way they handle the action add a level of authenticity to the relationships between the characters.
This movie looks incredible, especially considering it was released almost 40 years ago. Cinematographer Derek Vanlint (Dragonslayer) captured the action with some incredible shots. He was also able to highlight the claustrophobic world of the film. The effects team also did solid work that eventually earned the movie the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. The movie also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration. The movie is visually intense, with some violence that is sometimes shocking. Thanks to solid writing, the violence doesn’t ever seem to feel gratuitous or unnecessary. This leads to one of the other great aspects of the film; the alien. This creature is a magnificent and horrifying creation that lives up to the buildup in the story. Another great aspect of this one is Jerry Goldsmith’s (The Boys from Brazil) score. The music serves as the perfect undercurrent to the constantly building suspense. The production work on this one doesn’t leave much to complain about. Even the age of the film doesn’t seem to show, thanks to the great work done on the visuals.
This film has continued to find critical acclaim over the years, including placement in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. This movie is one of the great examples of success within multiple genres. The ability to build great horror and science fiction into one story should not be discounted. Many films have attempted to duplicate the success of Alien, but this one stand alone. It’s likely the best science fiction horror film ever made. If you’re a fan of either genre, this is one to check out. I would also suggest this to fans of Ridley Scott or the stars. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.
Running Time: 116 Minutes
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