Ridley Scott’s Alien is a masterpiece and has been the standard for the sci-fi horror genre since the film’s release in 1979. The film has a classic B-movie plot line, but with stellar acting and directing elevates the film to a level few in its genre ever reach.
The film is based around the crew of a mining ship called the Nostromo. The crew of seven come out of hyper sleep assuming they are on their way home, but find out the ship rerouted them to an S.O.S call on another planet. Members of the crew investigate a mysterious ship on the planet and come across thousands of eggs in the ship. One of the eggs hatches and an organism attaches itself to a crew member’s face, letting the madness begin.
The cast of the film is phenomenal. The intriguing characters are aspects that set the film apart from its contemporaries. The two that standout are Sigourney Weaver as warrant officer Ripley and Ian Holm as Ash, the ship’s science officer. Tom Skerritt also does great work as Dallas, the captain of the ship. John Hurt plays Kane the executive officer, Veronica Cartwright is Lambert, the ship’s navigator, Yaphet Kotto plays Parker, the chief engineer and Harry Dean Stanton is Brett, the engineering technician.
Each actor fills their role perfectly in a small cast that almost feels likes a play. Weaver’s role shattered the mold of how females were usually portrayed in these types of films and gave way for so many actresses who would go on to play the “badass chick” role. She is a strong female but still demonstrates compassion, responsibility, and intelligence throughout the entire film. The performance is arguably the best of Weaver’s career and revolutionized the role women could have in horror films.
The film is a great looking sci-fi film, but still maintains a level of realism and grit with the designs and sets. Little music is used during certain scenes allowing for a creepy and realistic tone. A number of scenes are still just as chilling as the first time I saw them, especially when the Xenomorph first appears. The Xenomorph is used much like the shark in Jaws with only a total of four minutes of screen time, but is absolutely terrifying when used. The creature has no eyes which gives it a soulless look and feel. The alien shows no signs of compassion and has only the goals of killing and surviving. The film never even suggests that the creature eats. The Xenomorph is still looked at as one of the most iconic movie monsters ever.
The Xenomorph is arguably not the main villain in the film. Weyland Industries, the company the crew works for is eventually shown as having hidden agendas, putting the crew’s lives in danger. This metaphor of distrusting authority gives the film a level of uniqueness that isn’t seen in many horror films. The film also works as a metaphor for sexual fear and exploitation with the countless sexual imagery that even includes the design of the creature itself.
Alien was the perfect balancing of the sci-fi genre two years after the release of Star Wars. Star Wars is King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table in space, while Alien is Nightmare on Elm Street and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in space. The film is flawless on so many levels. A true classic.
Written by: James Howey