Movie Review – Alien

1979 Twentieth Century Fox

Five Stars

AlienFor those who haven’t seen this movie Alien tells the tale of the crew of the commercial space towing vessel Nostromo who are on their way home with a load of mineral ore. While still far out in the depths of space the are woken from hyper sleep and sent to check on the origin of a mysterious signal coming from a planet way off the beaten path. What they encounter there is of course the stuff of movie legend and if you haven’t seen this movie stop reading now and if you are a fan of the genre watch it immediately. If you are not a fan of the genre then what the hell are you doing here? Go away now.

Let me say right off the bat that this is one of my favorite movies. From the opening credits with the cold and lonely music themes to the final scene of Ripley in the “cooler” this movie holds me in its grip and won’t let go. Alien is probably the single most atmospheric movie I have ever seen and is oppressive in its depiction of the crew of the Nostromo and their rather unfortunate meeting with the overly aggressive alien life form. A feeling of claustrophobia permeates the cramped interior of the ship and the dark moody lighting feels like a character in itself.  The sound effects give the Nostromo a pulse and heartbeat that is constantly beating in the background. Alien is a gothic horror movie set in the vast darkness of space. White watching this you really get the impression of how big space is and how small we are and that things are lurking out there waiting to pounce if we move in the wrong direction.

Everything just works perfectly in Alien from the acting to the music to the special effects. I would recommend this to anyone who loves horror and science fiction and is not easily turned off by graphic images. However if you don’t like intense movies and graphic images I would recommend something a little more tame.

The good:

Ridley Scott’s direction is wonderful, not as polished as his style is now but the rough edges enhance the film rather than detract from it.

The production design in Alien is incredible and the model building and special effects team do a brilliant job all around. The look of this movie has been copied so many times for a reason (but never as well).

The interior of the Nostromo is filled with many different and eclectic styles and I love every one of them.

The interior of the Nostromo is filled with many different and eclectic styles and I love every one of them.

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Bubble

Dallas

Beautiful detailed models. I miss real models in movies.

H. R. Giger’s designs of the various stages of the alien, the landscape of the planet, and the space jockey are amazing.

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Sunrise doesn’t do much to enhance this landscape at all.

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The mysterious space jockey. Not so mysterious since Prometheus was released.

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This really is an amazing and horrific image.

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The cast is just as good; they play their characters low key and like real people. There are no Hollywood hero types to be found here, these are people you run into every day all over the place, blue collar workers doing their jobs, complaining about the pay and just trying to survive.

Ripley is a very interesting lead. She is not anyone special just someone who happens to find herself as the last person alive. The thing that always struck me about Ripley’s character is that she really is not heroic in Alien at all. She really just survives by running like hell. She is no coward but her reaction is to get the hell away from the danger. She does go back for Jones but she is terrified every step of the way. The alien forces her to act but it’s not like she is all Rambo in this movie (or the third movie for that matter). That is what I like about her character, she overcomes her basic human instincts and survives. She does what any of us would do, run like crazy and leave the big nasty monster to go boom with the rest of the ship. The big nasty monster has other ideas in its head but at least she tries to run away like any normal person would.

The minimalist music score by Jerry Goldsmith is terrific; he was at the top of his form in the late 70’s.

This movie contains the best line in any of the alien movies – “We ain’t outta here in ten minutes, we won’t need no rocket to fly through space.”

The not so good:

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The transition from the wobbly fake Ash head to Ian Holm and back again is clumsy to say the least.

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Random thoughts and observations:

This movie reminds me so much of It! The Terror from Beyond Space that it could easily be considered a remake but I say who cares, I love them both!

The style of the opening credits were copied quite a bit.

The style of the opening credits was copied quite a bit.

Scale

I love this shot. It shows just how massive the derelict is and how small the three little crew members are.

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So what’s with the cat picture that’s seen on two different consoles on the bridge?

Console

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Nice of someone to tuck Kane’s shirt in just before the alien pops out. Very considerate.

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The acid blood eats through the floor but not the metal to the left of the hole. I guess they forgot to use styrofoam to make the support. Silly them.

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Some of the props on the table disappear when the fake Ash head is torched. Guess they wanted to keep them. The coffee cup moves as well.

Ash V

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This shot of the toasted Ash head looks cool…

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…but this one just reveals it to be a solid piece. I think I would have cut this scene by a few seconds.

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The shuttle can supposedly carry three crew members but there is clearly only one sleep chamber

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