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Title:
Year:
Directed by:
Written by:
Country:
Runtime:
Alien
1979
Ridley Scott
Dan OīBannon, Ronald Shusett
UK
117 min (directors cut)
The Plot

The Nostromo mining ship discovers an alien signal originating from an unknown world which they believe to be a call for help. As they set down on planet LV-426 to investigate, they find the source of the transmission to be an ancient alien spaceship, and one of the crewmembers gets infected with an alien parasite.
The Cast

Dallas
Ripley
Lambert
Brett
Kane
Ash
Parker
the alien
"Mother" (voice)
Tom Skerritt
Sigourney Weaver
Veronica Cartwright
Harry Dean Stanton
John Hurt
Ian Holm
Yaphet Kotto
Bolaji Badejo
Helen Horton
AvP Freaks Review by SiL

Alien is part of a rare breed of film.

Not only does it ignore the fact it is, at its core, just a B-movie and play itself dead seriously, but it actually manages to make it work. Throughout cinematic history so many movies have fallen flat simply because they tried to be something they werenít and didnít have the creative (or indeed financial) backing to pull it off

Here it worked. The most talented and creative minds were locked in a room and told to create the proverbial good science fiction monster movie, and given enough money to make it happen. They created a movie which is still highly regarded today not just because it was so far ahead of the competition, or for nostalgic reasons, but because itís quite simply a good movie.

The plot is simplistic, even formulaic. The crew of a spaceship in the middle of nowhere is awoken to investigate a strange planet. Once there, they discover a nasty alien monster which, when back aboard the ship, proceeds to kill them one-by-one in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse in a claustrophobic environment.

Even back in 1979 the plot was something of a clichť, evoking memories of poorly constructed cardboard-and-duct-tape sets being trod on by a burly man in an ill-fitting rubber suit. Not here, though. Not in Alien. The sets here arenít cardboard; you canít see the staples holding the flimsy panels together. Itís all real and tangible, very lived in. We can believe that this is the look of the future, something we may actually be walking in a hundred years from now, and that the planet is something that is actually out there, even today. These aren't the pristine vacuum-sealed prefabricated constructions of Star Trek.

Few of the clichťs are adhered to, and even then very loosely. Most SF scientists, mad or otherwise, somehow had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the monster at hand within a handful of observations. Here the scientist canít explain the Alien in any sort of detail; Heís vague and metaphorical, not presenting any more facts than the crew already know.

The women aren't damsels in distress, or romantic interests who get in the way, or the damned tea lady. Theyíre just crew members who happen to be female.

Laser pistols are also out of the question. Donít expect to find a tractor beam, or a phase-matter antigravity particle accelerator unit equipped with DC-SC remote control function for orbit-to-landing missions. This movie exists to scare the shit out of you, not bore you to hell with flawed science in the hopes of sounding like it knows what itís talking about. There is a scene of technobabble, but the patronising tone is aimed squarely at the character being fed the information, not the audience itself.

Itís really very well written, not just considering its genre but as a film in general. The dialogue is naturalistic and the characters, bare as most may be, are real people. We may not have their whole life stories shoved down our throats in expository dialogue, but if we watch and listen we can see them change, see how the situation makes them evolve. Itís all very subtle, very minor changes that are so organic most fail to notice them at all, backed up by wonderful acting by the cast.

The pacing is also dead on. This is a voyage of discovery, and nothingís being rushed. We wake up with the crew, watch them go about business, find out about whatís really going down. Everything is allowed to sink in, and this helps us immerse ourselves in the experience. Itís also why, when the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan, itís such a shock. For so long this has been taking its time, drawing us in, forcing us to accept it, and suddenly a manís chest is exploding in the middle of dinner. People get frenetic, and this is echoed in the pace of the picture. It picks up and begins moving in an inexorable drive towards the finale.

And then thereís the alien aspect. The monster, the alien planet and the things they find there have been given meticulous attention to detail. These things are important to the movie, and theyíve been dealt with as such. Where before so many movies went cheap on the monster, the veritable star of the picture, Alien takes pains to make it something truly unique and horrifying. Nothing like it had ever been seen on screen before, and rather unfortunately nothing which has followed since has ever really captured its presence either.

This beast isnít bullet-proof, but it does have a creative defence mechanism to prevent being shot at: Highly caustic blood. Itís not the Frankenstein monster in a Halloween costume, either. Itís tall, slender, and graceful, not short and bulky with a tendency to clod around with large heave feet. There's also a perverse psychological subtext to it: To exist it must rape us and be in us, to leach off of our bodies for its own needs, then when itís done it destroys us in its birth. To top it all off, itís not a woman who faces this interspecies rape; Itís a man.

Really, this ainít no beach ball or ambulatory carrot.

With Alien, every frame is a painting; every set is a real place, visceral, believable; the acting is subtle, the characters real, and the monster is something unique, something truly scary.

Where so many failed in so many ways, Alien succeeds in transcending its schlock nature and becomes a classic not just of its poorly realised genre, but of film itself.


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