Wednesday, February 1, 2012
100 Movies - No. 5: Alien
Science Fiction, Horror, 117 minutes
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm and Tom Skerritt
I first saw Alien during its original theatrical run in 1979 and appreciated it even more on the big screen. The first half of the movie is the best part. It's dark and atmospheric and there is an element of mystery. We are introduced to the crew of the mining ship and learn the relationships and personalities involved.
The computer screens on the ship seem dated now, but the overall effect of the movie is just as powerful. The story gathers pace when some of the crew investigate the surface of a moon and find a ship from an unknown species. The way this sequence unfolds is almost worthy of Hitchcock.
The purpose of the mission isn't immediately clear, but I won't reveal the details in case you haven't seen the movie. This is essentially a story of survival. While an actual encounter with an alien race might involve peaceful interaction, Alien never suggests for a moment that peace is possible. The creature is a killer and pursues the crew one at a time. Eventually, the battle focuses on Ripley (Weaver) and the alien. The second half of the movie doesn't quite live up to the promise of the first because most of the mystery is gone, but it's still a gripping story.
Like many movies featuring unknown creatures, we rarely see shots of the whole creature. We are shown glimpses as it evolves and our imagination fills in the gaps. When we are eventually shown the whole thing, it adds to the effect and comes as quite a shock as we realize its strength and resilience.
If you like Alien:
If you are a fan of Alien, there are several movies that might be of interest. The four Alien movies are available on Blu-ray and come with a wealth of special features. The set is region free and the best deals can generally be had by importing from Amazon UK or other UK dealers.
While all four movies in the franchise have something to offer, Alien is the best of the bunch. The first sequel, Aliens, is also an intense ride. It focuses more on the action and assumes that the viewer already knows what to expect from the aliens.
Director Ridley Scott is currently finishing Prometheus. Due to be released in June 2012, the story is apparently set in the Alien universe. It's unclear whether it's a proper prequel, but Scott has stated that the movie explains the origin of the ship discovered in the original movie.
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