Alien is perhaps the benchmark for a science-fiction horror film. No other film has come close to matching what Ridley Scott created here.
The story begins when the commercial spaceship Nostromo, heading back to Earth, intercepts an SOS signal from a nearby planet, the crew are under obligation to investigate. After landing on the planet, three members of the crew leave the ship to explore the area. They soon discover a derelict spacecraft and inside they find a cargo area full of eggs. While examining one of the eggs, it hatches and the creature inside attacks one of the crew members. After returning to the Nostromo, the alien creature seamlessly dies but what no one knows is that another alien is forming within its host – and when it emerges, the crew finds itself in serious danger…
The film is directed by Ridley Scott, who had only done one movie feature and numerous commercials when he directed Alien. Since Alien, he’s done a string of successful films including Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. Ridley Scott has influenced many directors since Alien with his unique visual style and detailed approach to production design and atmosphere. He frequently uses slow pacing at the beginning of a movie until an action sequence. Ridley Scott does a great job of creating tension and atmosphere in Alien. The first part of the film remains very mysterious and slow-paced while the second part moves rapidly. The great thing about Alien is that you never see the creature fully until towards the end of the film. This, of course, adds to the incredible suspense throughout the picture. There are plenty of shocks in the film to keep you interested.
Alien featured a set of then-unknown actors. The ship is led by Dallas (Tom Skerrit), Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as the first officer, Ash (Ian Holm) is the science officer, Kane (John Hurt), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton). The characters are very well believable and well-written. The film also introduced Ripley to audiences, one of the first female heroines. Alien also turned Sigourney Weaver into a star overnight.
The production designs are also wonderful. The derelict spacecraft for example designed by HR Giger on the interior and exterior is just a wonderful sight. It’s almost organic in design similar to the alien creature itself which was also created by HR Giger. The alien creature design is terrific with its bio-mechanical look. I personally think if it wasn’t for Giger’s involvement, Alien wouldn’t have been as successful as it was – or scary. The music score created by the late Jerry Goldsmith is also great and really compliments the cinematography. Alien is surprisingly light on gore and blood compared to later films in the series. Of course, the most shocking and memorable sequence in the film is when the Chestburster emerges from Kane’s chest.
Alien is simply a classic sci-fi / horror movie that still holds up well 25 years after it was first released. The film itself is perhaps flawless. Seven years after Alien was released in cinemas, the sequel was made in 1986 which many people, including myself, consider to be far better than the original. But both films are very different, Alien is about suspense whereas Aliens is an all-out action movie. No other film in the series comes close to matching the unique visual style used in this film.