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Alien
USA 1979
Directed by Ridley Scott
Running time 116 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Although its Space Invaders-era computer technology dates it, Alien is deservedly a classic of the sci-fi genre particularly the 1950s invasion-from-outer-space-by-monsters sub-genre. Unlike most of those films, largely B-grade efforts enjoyed for their unabashed tininess, Ridley Scott’s film about the crew of an industrial spacecraft who are diverted from their main mission to investigate a strange signal from a nearby planet is not only a top drawer production but is truly scary and not for the faint-hearted.

The brilliance of the film is not just in its Kubrickian attention to detail but the way that it slowly and methodically unfolds it story, being closer in style to the horror movie in this respect as the world of the everyday becomes a nightmare of burgeoning proportions. Whilst the various technical departments involved in the film are crucial to its success, notably the production design of Michael Seymour which creates a highly convincing simulation of a labyrinthine spaceship and H.R. Giger’s unbettered realization of the various slime-covered monsters that invade it, Scott cleverly underplays the action and restricts what we see of the alien, allowing our imagination to create the terror.

The film also remains a benchmark for a strong female characterization with Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley an oft-cited icon of popular culture although you’d have to say that getting her in her knickers was unnecessary (Scott had intended to have the alien sexually aroused by the semi-naked Ripley. Mercifully, the idea was dropped).  John Hurt also has one of his most famous screen appearances as Kane, the crew member who becomes the means by which the alien gains access to the ship.

Only his second feature after his ambitious-but-flawed 1977 debut, The Duellists, Scott fully realized the potential shown there and has never looked back.

 

 

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