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Alien Movie Review

creature ripley crew visual

1979 – Ridley Scott –

This science fiction/horror classic that inspired three sequels works on visual, dramatic, and emotional levels as a suspenseful, skillfully constructed variation on the conventional “one man against unbeatable odds” storyline, though in this case, it's a woman. After the crew of the Nostromo responds to a distress signal and discovers a wrecked space craft, their crew is invaded by a seemingly undefeatable alien creature that hunts everyone down until only Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is left alive. Ripley and the deadly alien face off in a battle of wits and brute strength, a series of sequences that stand out as some of the most intense and suspenseful scenes ever filmed.

Director Ridley Scott achieves a dark and lonely mood and sustains a suspenseful pace and a visual artistry that is rare in this class of “monster movies.” Many films of the genre simply seem content with attempting to frighten the audience, often suffering from shallow or stock characterizations, contrived emotions, hackneyed or simplistic plots, and reliance on gore rather than on genuine suspense to instill fear. While the basic “monster versus man” plot of Alien offers relatively nothing new, the story is enrichened by the unveiling of the mysteries surrounding the alien creature and by the complications created by the traitorous android Ash (Ian Holm). And, although the film has its share of blood and guts (and is creative in its violence), the filmmakers understand that gore in itself does not generate true fear and horror. More often than not, an atmosphere of terror is generated through the mysterious, powerful, unstoppable nature of the alien and through calculated suspense. The creature does not appear on screen for long, and its attacks on the human victims are brief. The real terror is in waiting to see what the creature will do next, or wondering when it will suddenly appear. Although scenes of the alien pursuing humans are intensely paced, some of the most effective scenes are those between the chases and attacks, when crew members search for the creature, try to determine a way to kill it, or fearfully wait for it to show its ugly face. Setting the story on a space ship with few ways to escape, thus isolating Ripley and the others, also creates a feeling of claustrophobia and loneliness that adds to the intensity of the conflict.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is the production design. Both the interior of the wrecked alien vessel where the eggs are found and the deadly creature itself are strange, disturbing, and hauntingly intricate. The characterization of Ripley, along with those of other crew members, is also a strong point. As a woman placed in a seemingly unbeatable life-threatening situation, Ripley exhibits an intelligence and inner strength that enable her to adapt to a situation beyond her experience and heroically overcome incredible odds. What makes her an endearing character is that she is not a stock hero but, a reluctant hero brought out by unusual circumstances.

Cast: Tom Skerritt (Dallas), Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Veronica Cartwright (Lambert), Harry Dean Stanton (Brett), John Hurt (Kane), Ian Holm (Ash), Yaphet Kotto (Parker), Bolaji Badejo (Alien), Helen Horton (voice of Mother) Screenwriter: Dan O'Bannon Cinematographer: Derek Vanlint Composer: Jerry Goldsmith Producer: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, and Walter Hill for Twentieth Century Fox MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 117 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1979: Visual Effects; Nominations: Art Direction/Set Decoration Budget: $11M Box Office: $60.2M (domestic gross).

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