Monday February 22, 2010 15:24

Movie #0014 – Alien (1979)

Posted by Michael

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm
Third Viewing

Synopsis: The crew of a mining ship end up with an unwelcome visitor after stopping at a strange planet to investigate a distress call.

I have mixed feelings on Ridley Scott — on one hand, he made films like this and Blade Runner, which is easily one of my favourite films of all time. On the other hand, the quality of his output has been erratic of late, putting it kindly. But no matter how many mediocre films the man makes, there will always be a place for him among the greats if only for making a film as assured and downright perfect as this one.

I’ve seen this movie a couple of times before, and I remembered it being really good, but wow — this is an absolute classic, and definitely one of the most effective films of its type. For one thing, Ridley Scott’s direction is absolutely perfect (it’s hard to believe that this is directed by the same man who recently made the mediocre and dull American Gangster). I love the pacing of this movie — yes, it’s slow by contemporary standards; the alien doesn’t pop out of John Hurt’s chest until about the 56 minute mark, and we don’t actually see the full-grown alien until well after an hour has passed. But the slower pace helps to establish the kind of tension and dread that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible, and ensures that the audience is familiar with the characters and the layout of the ship. This is a remarkably tense, suspenseful film.

Scott also makes the wise choice to never really give us a good look at the alien, which just makes it creepier (despite the fact that after several sequels, spin-offs, comic books and video games, modern audiences obviously have a pretty good idea of what the alien looks like). I also really like the design of this movie — from the ship where most of the action takes place, to the ruined alien ship, to the alien itself, this is a really visually compelling film. Derek Vanlint’s dark cinematography is also quite stunning (and oddly, at least according to the imdb, the man only has a handful of credits to his name).

Hmmm, what next on the laundry list of superlatives? The performances are really good. Sigourney Weaver is obviously pretty much perfect as a more vulnerable Ripley (at least compared to the grizzled alien ass-kicker she became in the sequels). The other performances are just as good. Also, the special effects have aged remarkably well.

This is one of those rare movies that accomplishes nearly everything it sets out to do with perfection. It’s a classic, no doubt about it.

Buy the movie at Amazon

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