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Back in early 20th century, Lumière brothers didn't have a clue of what
they were playing with. I'm freaking sure that if somebody could have
magically told them that thanks to their work, a movie like 'Alien'
would have been made in the future, they both would have died of a
sudden, shocked by the consequences of their labor, like an honest
scientist would if he was shown an evil use of his research. In that
sense, but in the best way imaginable, 'Alien' is the atomic bomb.
In my opinion, 'Alien' is the only perfect movie in the history of cinema. Of course, this could be debatable, but of all the films I've watched since I was born, this is the only one in which I haven't been able to find the slightest flaw. It gets a golden ten out of ten. Bright, solid and massive.
I could go on with a panegyric, but I'll try to be short and accurate:
The direction is just perfect. Every shot is marvellous, every movement of the camera is breathtaking. There is absolutely nothing you could add or subtract. Touch it, and you spoil it. Seriously.
The acting is splendid. The performances build a credible world centuries away. I don't know about you, but this take on the future was unveliabably acceptable. Sigourney Weaver is more than a revelation, John Hurt is a master, and the rest are nothing short of marvellous.
The script is a work of art, the story is mesmerizing, well-constructed, well-developed, and free of absurd twists. Its simplicity and efectiveness are yet, 25 years after, to be matched.
The atmosphere is pure genius. Gothic, claustrophobic and sometimes baroque. The use of light and dark is beyond description, the use of sound is as creepy as it gets.
The FX are the best possible for 1979. In the time of the release, some scenes were stomach churning.
The score. Jerry Goldsmith's work matches the images so perfectly it seems to bleed from them. It is and will be the best soundtrack for a sci-fi flick in space ever.
The tagline. "In space, no one can hear you scream". THIS is a tagline.
And, of course... the alien. The only alive creature that can steal Weaver the movie. Its design is the most innovative I've seen. It has spawned dozens of disgraceful imitations. This is the real deal. Not only the look, but the complete design of a life form, including biological features. Acid instead of blood. Jaws inside jaws. What more could you possibly want? This is how a movie is done.
A very good sign of a movie that has gone down in history is the amount of collectively well remembered scenes. Well, 'Alien' has so many that I won't go into it. This movie contains so many iconic scenes that has become an icon itself.
So, what else? I urge all young directors to watch this movie a zillion times, as I've already done, and take notes all along. But not in order to rip off from it, as many others have done, but to learn, learn, learn, learn and learn how a movie should be done. 'Casablanca'? You must be joking.
Oh, I almost forget! There's a lovable cat in it.
Director Ridley Scott's well-honed talents of pacing and editing create a
tense atmosphere that superbly conveys dread and fear of an unknown, unseen
evil entity. In 1979, the technology didn't exist to generate a computer
image of a Being from another world, and thank God, because this film would
have sucked just like all these post-Alien creature features do. Everyone
who loves this movie knows what I'm talking about. Ridley Scott had to be
extremely careful not to show a full shot of the Alien, except in very brief
scenes, and not to reveal exactly how it moves, because then we would see
that it is just some tall, skinny guy in a rubber suit. Nowadays, some
computer guy would whip up a really scary-looking, but nevertheless
FAKE-looking (yes, computer guys, we can tell) Alien, and the director would
not have to even think about trying to breathe life into H.R. Giger's
hallucinations to make a successful picture.
The dark, cold beauty of this film will never be equaled.
In "Alien" we follow a seven man crew en-route to earth on board the
huge space freighter "Nostromo". The crew is in cryosleep, but the on
board computer interrupts the journey when a foreign radio signal is
picked up. It originates from an uninhabited planet and the crew lands
to investigate. There they make contact with an alien life-form...
What makes Alien so great is the constant feel of uneasiness. Right from the beginning you have a feeling that something is wrong. The crew is not particularly friendly towards each other, and you truly feel all the in-group tension. The ship itself is a huge worn out industrial-style maze of halls and corridors, and it feels more like a prison than a place to live. It is as if not only the alien but also the ship itself is against the humans. The Alien itself is the scariest monster in history because it is a ruthless, soul-less parasite completely devoid of any human or civilized traits. The design of the monster is a stroke of genius. Sure it has a humanoid form, but it has no facial traits or anything else which could give away emotions or intentions. Its actions reveals no weaknesses nor civilized intelligence. The Alien is more or less the opposite of everything human and civilized, plus the creature is more well-adapted to the inhumane interior of the ship than the humans who build it. To sum up, you then have a setting where the humans are caught in a web of in-group tensions, an inhospitable ship and the perfect killer which thrives in the ships intestines. You almost get the feel that the humans are the ones who are alienated to each other and to their own ship.
Ridley Scott tells the story with a perfectly synchronized blend of visuals and sounds.
The actors do a superb job, portraying their characters in a subtle but very realistic way. The seven man crew is not a bunch of Hollywood heroes. They are ordinary people with strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. In this way they all seem so fragile when confronted with the enemy.
As mentioned the ship is very claustrophobic and Ridley Scott adds to the eeriness by using camera movement, lights and shadows in an effective way. The living quarters are bright and should be comfortable to the crew, but there is something sterile about it all. The rest of the ship is basically a huge basement.
The music by Jerry Goldsmith underlines the eeriness so well, and the movie wouldn't have worked without his score. Combined with the sounds of the ship it all adds to the uneasiness.
This is not a story about heroic people who boldly teams up against evil. It's a story about ordinary people facing true fear, which is the fear without a face. The fear we can't understand and can't negotiate with, because its only goal is to survive on the expense of us. It's a story where some people bravely fight back whilst others are destroyed by the terror. It's a story where people a killed in a completely random way. There is no higher-order justice behind who gets to live and who dies. All seven characters are just part of a race where the fittest - not necessarily the most righteous - will prevail, and all seven characters start the race on an equal footing. None of them are true heroes, and none of them are true villains.
All the above makes Alien so great as a horror movie. The terror isn't just the Alien itself, it's the entire atmosphere which gets so effectively under your skin, that you just can't shrug it off after the end credits like you can with so many other Hollywood horror movies. The title "Alien" doesn't just refer to the monster, it is the theme of the movie and it is the feeling you have during and after the movie. 9/10
The further we go in special effects, the more movies show us and ignore the
unseen, the more people will return to dark horrors like this
It's hard to look at this film without considering the sequels and knowing the alien itself, however when made the alien was mostly unseen and a mystery. It's difficult to forget what you've seen, but it's important to approach this film first if possible rather than joining the series late.
It's amazing that this is over 20 years old - apart from the actors looking so young, the film doesn't feel dated at all. The sci-fi visions here are still bleak and futuristic as they were then - this is not the Star Trek vision of the future. The foreboding exists long before John Hurt spills his secret, Scott's direction is excellent throughout. Once the alien is "born" the tension is cranked up and the characters dispatched one by one (a formula we know oh-so well now!)
However here the characters are not merely alien-food but have some dimension to them. Weaver is excellent, while the support cast is full of great support actors (Stanton, Kotto, Hurt, Skerritt, Holm), but of course the real star is the one we see least of.
We barely see the alien in full detail, most of the time it is set in shadows, moving with deadly intent.The alien here is not simply a killing machine as seen in later films but is cruel with it. Witness the alien trap a female crew member and slowly rub up her leg, moving with slow seductive movements before moving with terrifying speed to kill another crew member sneaking up behind it. The slow movements betray the alien's pure cruelty.
The film is a study in terror. It may not be as action packed as the other films in the series but it brings the claustrophobia of being hunted to a new level.
The beginning of one of the greatest series of all time. This film will always remain a classic. It's scary, influential and insanely entertaining. Not just that but Ridley Scott actually has a great sense of style and mood and he plays with that a lot, to make us shiver. There's also an interesting mystery surrounding the Alien which we know practically nothing about. Sigourney Weaver is just as powerful as usual and really brings strength to the film; they make one. Last but not least, the musical score. Wow! It's fantastic. I think the Alien series is known for that aspect as well. Let's hope they'll continue the series and dang we need it all on DVD !
ALIEN received mixed reviews when it debuted in 1979--largely from
science fiction critics, who accused it of being little more than a
sort of Friday the 13th in Outer Space, a blood-and-gore horror flick
given a futuristic twist via special effects. But while these
accusations have more than a little truth, it has been an incredibly
influential film--and even today, in the wake of CGI effects, it still
holds up extremely, extremely well.
The story is well known: the crew of an interstellar craft responds to what seems a distress signal, only to encounter a remarkably lethal alien life form that boards their ship and sets about picking them off one by one. Some of the special effects are weak (the alien spacecraft and the android "revival" are fairly notorious). There is little in the way of character development, the film has a fairly slow pace, and the story itself is predictable; you can usually guess who is going to die next.
BUT. The art designs are incredible: the entire look of the film, from the commercial nature of the spacecraft to the iconographic alien itself (brilliantly envisioned by Giger) is right on the money. Director Ridley Scott encouraged his cast to ad lib from the script, and the result is a shocking sense of realism--and the somewhat slow pace of the film and the predictability of the story gives it a sense of relentless and ever-mounting paranoia that is greatly enhanced by the tight sets and camera set-ups. With its odd mixture of womb-like organics and cold mechanics, ALIEN is a film calculated to send even the most slightly claustrophobic viewer into a fit of hysteria.
The entire cast, led by Tom Skerrit and Sigorney Weaver, is very, very good--and the film abounds with memorable images and scenes ranging from John Hurt's encounter with the alien egg to Skerrit's search of the ship air ducts to Weaver's terrifying race against time as the ship counts down to self-destruct. Seldom has any film been so consistent in design, cast, direction, and out-and-out fear factor, and although certain aspects of ALIEN are open to legitimate criticism the end result is powerful enough to bring it in at a full five stars. A word of warning, however: you'll need to send the kids to bed for this one. And you'll probably be up half the night afterward yourself! Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
"In space, no one can hear you scream." This remains my favourite tagline ever for a movie. When 'Alien' was released in 1979, it caused almost as much talk as 'Star Wars' did when released two years earlier. The science fiction genre was being revolutionized at this time and 'Alien' had a horror characteristic to it which was psychological, visually striking and compelling with the type of strength in silence not seen since '2001: A Space Odyssey' in 1968. Definitely a big influence in blockbuster film making, 'Alien' has spawned three sequels so far and is a great horror/science-fiction classic not to be missed. It is director Ridley Scott's best effort on the big screen for making fear the best character in the film.
'Alien' while technically science fiction is also one of the greatest horror/suspense movies ever made. Ridley Scott is now one of the most well known and successful directors in Hollywood, but I don't think anything he's made in the last ten years is a patch on this perfect film, which is a near masterpiece in my opinion. In fact, on reflection there are only three Scott movies I genuinely like, those being his first three. The last of these 'Blade Runner' was released twenty years ago now, so to me Scott is long past his use by date. Whatever, 'Alien' itself is a brilliant piece of work, and is almost flawless. Scott's direction is superb and everything else about it is outstanding - a strong script from Dan O'Bannon et al, an evocative score from Jerry Goldsmith, brilliant design and special effects, including the amazing contributions from H.R.Giger, all add up to an amazing movie experience. I also really liked how the cast were character actors and not "stars" so there was plenty of suspense generated as to who will live and who will die. This is something very few subsequent movies have done, 'Pitch Black' being one of the exceptions. Sigourney Weaver may be an icon as Ripley now, but when the movie was first released she was virtually unknown, having had a small cameo in Woody Allen's 'Annie Hall' and not much else. The rest of the cast are equally as good. I especially enjoyed Yaphet Kotto ('Blue Collar') and the legendary Harry Dean Stanton ('Wise Blood') as the wise cracking "below deck" crew. Many people seem to prefer James Cameron's sequel 'Aliens' over this, but as I much prefer horror and suspense movies to action ones I think this is definitely the better movie, and still the strongest and most effective in the series. 'Alien' is a horror classic and an absolutely unforgettable movie that I can't recommend highly enough. If you haven't seen it before watch it immediately!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ridely Scott is such a minimalist in Alien that many sci-fi nuts find it
slow and unexciting. So many people prefer Aliens, its sequel, to this one.
I think Aliens, directed by James Cameron, is another sci-fi masterpiece
(and maybe the best action film ever made), but I think Alien is much
better. In fact, I would say that it is among the best films ever made, in
sci-fi, only second to 2001.
The plot absolutely lacks contrivance. All the plot points develop how they would naturally. And there are great surprises throughout the film. Even if you haven't seen the film, you know about the chest-bursting scene. You probably saw it parodied dozens of times. But watch the scene where Ian Holm reveals his secret! That is one amazing scene! I actually saw the sequel first, so I kind of knew that secret, too, but it still shocked me. It was so well directed.
Notice how the dialogue works. It never particularly draws attention to itself. It actually reminds me of Robert Altman, how he directed such movies as Nashville, where many characters are speaking at the same time, and nothing seems more or less important than anything else. It is just like real life. Alien is one of the most realistic, documentary-like sci-fi films ever made.
Also notice the setting. The Nostromo's design is so believable that I feel that I'm actually seeing a real space vehicle. The alien ship also beams with its spookiness.
The characters are also extremely believable. They are so well written that even the first character who dies is completely developed. If you get the DVD, they actually created dossiers about each of the crew members. It also has extra scenes which round out the characters even more. I think Ripley is one of the most endearing characters in film history. Even in the last two sequels, which were visually interesting but not very well written or directed, Ripley held my interest. I teared up when she died at the end of 3. If they made a fifth one, I would go, no matter how terrible I knew it would be. The acting is also top-notch. Ian Holm, a great actor, gives one of his best performances here. I love the last scene that he is in. Truly a master. And of course Sigourney Weaver could have just as easily been nominated for an Oscar for her performance here as she was for Aliens. I wish she would make more movies. She's so talented.
The most important part of a film, in my mind, is the mood. And boy, does Alien have one of the most genuinely spooky movies I've ever seen. Make sure you watch it after the sun has gone down. Also, watching it alone will help. The special effects are kind of cheap, but Scott knows this well enough. He only shows the alien for seconds at a time. Besides keeping us from seeing the shoddiness of those puppets, this technique makes the alien seem all the more creepy and mysterious.
10/10, no doubt at all (BTW, the symbols all over the Nostromo are the same insignias as those of the Purina Dog Chow company)
Three words perfectly describe ALIEN: Long, dark and ominous.
You know you're in for a good time when even the opening title gives you a shiver. The music plays perfectly as the word 'ALIEN' slowly appears, line by line. Then there are the establishing shots of the ship; poorly maintained, claustrophobic.
And then there's basically forty minutes of people in a ship pondering and eating and getting along (or not). The film has one little thing that allows it to draw you along so slowly - a promise. A promise made by the advertisements and hype that this was going to kick your ass. You just had to wait.
But when it happens, it happens. Though the film doesn't speed up per se, there's a lot more happening in front of the screen to make it at least look like stuff's going on. The first half crawls almost depressingly, but the second half catches your eye and refuses to let go.
I suggest everyone sees this film. Even if you skip through the beginning, you need to see this. It defined sci-fi and horror all in one.
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