One of the most original, suspenseful, & frightening films you’ll ever see, Alien is Ridley Scott’s breakthrough film and a masterful blend of horror & science-fiction which today is widely & rightly regarded as one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. A triumph of imagination, art direction, set design, special effects, unsettling score and a unique style of narration that fuses the silence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with sudden terror of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Alien continues to be one of the landmarks & most influential films in both science-fiction & modern horror.
Set in a highly realistic sci-fi future, Alien is unsettling from the very first frame. The plot follows a seven members crew en-route to Earth on board the huge commercial ship, named Nostromo. When they’re interrupted by what appears to be a distress signal from a desolate planet, the crew lands to investigate but ends up discovering a deadly life form that breeds within a human host. And so begins the horror… the horror of a highly aggressive extra-terrestrial creature which itself is a brilliant & original fusion of insect, man & machine and the crew’s struggle to survive in the face of an unknown danger that starts stalking & killing them one by one.
Ridley Scott’s direction & Dan O’Bannon’s script is equally amazing & clever. O’Bannon’s vision of the monster itself and the futuristic world he set the plot in truly deserves a bow. Ridley Scott’s atmospheric visuals, breathtaking details & emphasis on realism over movie heroics provides Alien an ageless appeal. The art direction, set designs & visual effects also contribute a lot to make the film more realistic & plausible by giving attention to every minute detail of the ship as well as the timeline this film is set in. Cinematography & editing is done amazingly well and integrates effortlessly with other aspects of this film to give us an end product that’s near perfect, technically, in almost all departments of filmmaking.
The cast worked brilliantly together as a team and it was pleasing to see each & every character getting equal importance. Plus, their mature effort on-screen helped this film a lot, as it provided viewers a bunch of very believable & convincing characters. All the characters are very nicely written too as we grow to care for each one of them and their very fear becomes our own as the movie progresses. With a cast comprising of Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm & John Hurt, the one who impresses the most is the youngest cast member, Sigourney Weaver playing the character of Ellen Ripley. Weaver plays Ripley as a bold, strong woman doing everything it takes to survive instead of trying to be a hero and does a terrific job. Rest of the cast also chipped in with vital contributions and overall, the acting department carries no complaints.
But the most distinct thing about Alien is its persistent attention on suspense over mindless gore & graphic kills and of course, its smart pacing which separates it from typical slasher films. Alien actually takes its time and waits until the viewers are completely immersed into its world and is at its scariest when nothing is happening, as Ridley Scott allows plenty of space for our imaginations to run wild. The suspense is further elevated by the accompanying silence, and Jerry Goldsmith’s tense score turns almost every frame into a potential nightmare scenario. Bringing together the silence of 2001: A Space Odyssey to create suspense and the horror of Jaws by not showing but not ruling out the presence of the creature either, Alien succeeds in creating a dark, moody & unique atmosphere that constantly provides a feeling of uneasiness throughout its runtime.
Overall, as writer David McIntee said, “Alien is a distillation of everything that scares us in the movies” and he is right. The most crucial thing in a horror film is not what you see, but the effect of what you think you saw and that’s where Alien is at its scariest. Be it the fans who love horror, science-fiction, gore & violence or even strong female characters, Alien has something in store for every cinema lover out there and just like it has influenced modern science-fiction & horror since its inception, will continue to do so for years to come. A genre-defining masterpiece, a genuine fright classic and a marvellous combination of art, science & horror, Ridley Scott’s Alien comes strongly recommended.