|Like curly hair and over-the-head headsets|
I doubt I have anything too original to add to the chorus of positive reviews for Alien. That won't stop me from reviewing it, but it does make outlining the plot in detail seem a bit unnecessary. In short, some glorified intergalactic truckers on the spaceship Nostromo are forced (economically, not physically) to investigate a distress signal deep in Nebraska (AKA "middle-of-nowhere") space. The signal comes from an alien vessel, and the aliens that sent it are long dead. However, in the process of determining that fact, the crew of the Nostromo also accidentally encounter the creatures that killed off the aliens. Worse, they bring one onto the ship with them and continue their voyage home. Hence the tagline, "In space, no one an hear you scream."
|"...Unless you have radios in your space suits, that is"|
There's quite a bit more to it that just that, but explaining science fiction plots typically leads me to over-explaining them because I tend to find the little details in these movies fascinating. And for people who enjoy reading into the production values of sci-fi movies, Alien is a treat. Unlike just about every space flick before this one (Star Wars may be the earliest example I can think of for this), the spaceship and crew are not flawlessly clean; this is a universe where space travel has been around for a while, and there are spaceship equivalents of rust buckets. This isn't a film that relies on special effects or fancy production values to succeed, but the unspoken history that the production design implies --- for the ship, for the spacesuits, for the alien species and crashed ship, etc. --- is very cool.
|Implication of the crew's appearance: fashion peaked in 1979|
The acting in Alien is quite good for something that, on paper, amounts to a genre mish-mash. I didn't realize it until I started browsing through their filmographies, but most of the cast in this film was fairly unknown at the time of its release; while many of the actors had been working for ten or fifteen years, they primarily played small character roles. That means that the highest-profile actor in Alien is John Hurt, who received some award nominations the year before for his work in The Midnight Express. As far as his performance goes, it was fine until it was rudely interrupted by his impending death.
|Less erotic than it looks|
|Tapioca and marbles: not key elements in "subtle"|
While I do like the acting in Alien, this is definitely not a film that relies heavily on a power performance. This is a mood piece, more than anything else. This was only the second film to be directed by Ridley Scott, but his direction is what makes this film so fantastic. If Alien was simply a science fiction film, we would still be talking about Ridley Scott's team pre-production team. I loved the look and feel of the ship, I liked the alien planet, and the futuristic tech on display (mostly in the form of the android) was very cool. Of course, the best part of the production was the design of the xenomorph (AKA the titular alien). How awesome is this thing?
Nickelodeon Gak. This alien is one of the most visually impressive creatures to ever hit the big screen, and that's even before seeing it in action. When you combine the fantastic production with practical effects --- as good as it looks, most of the special effects are made with puppets and creativity --- this movie becomes something more. It moves from "cool idea" to "cool movie," and that's still disregarding what actually happens in the film. With Scott's talent for building suspense, you wind up with something truly special. And when I reference the suspense in this film, I'm not talking about "Don't go into the basement, dumbass!" I'm not even talking about "Wait for it...wait for it...wait for it...oh, it's only the cat ---- KNIFE IN THE FACE!" I'm talking about a pervasive sense of dread that few horror films come close to matching. Scott slowly reveals more and more about the alien menace, but still keeps the audiences off-guard. The alien changes its appearance and the way it attacks throughout the film, so you're never quite sure what to expect.
|Except death. You always expect death|
This is only the second or third time I have sat down to watch Alien, and it impresses me more and more each time. I love when films transcend their genres, so the way Alien combines awesome sci-fi with horror just blows me away. When watching movies with my friends, we often skip over this film in favor of the louder and more action-packed Aliens, but Ridley Scott's direction has won me over. I am finally convinced that this is the best Alien movie. Everything about it, from the slow reveal of the title in the opening credits to the genuinely shocking chest-burst scene, all the way to the fourth act scares is wonderful.
|What a rip-off! They did the same thing in Spaceballs!|