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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Sigourney Weaver
Tom Skerritt
Ian Holm
John Hurt.
Directors
Ridley Scott.
Screenwriters
Dan O'Bannon.
Running Time
115 minutes

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Alien
Ridley Scott's 25th anniversary rejig of Alien just serves to enhance his atmospheric space-thriller.


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Plot
A cargo spaceship intercepts a signal of unknown origin from a nearby planet. When the crew investigates, they inadvertently bring a highly dangerous alien lifeform on board that picks them off one by one.


Review

Let's face it, most sci-fi movie posters are rubbish, melodramatic montage paintings designed to give you a quick visual precis of the film. (Would you like the Star Wars poster if it wasn't Star Wars?) Alien, however, was different. Even today its poster stands as a model for high-class movie artwork: the black background, the single nobbly egg with a v-shaped crack forming, the spaced-out letters of the title, and a tagline that must have earned the marketing team the rest of the day off: "In space no-one can hear you scream." It is perhaps a little too convenient to say that Alien's seismic effect on the genre was prefigured by its stark, minimalist poster, but the sheer come-and-get-it confidence gave a clue that something was about to explode.

 The people who developed Alien did so in the shadow of Star Wars and Close Encounters, the films which had proved that, post-Vietnam, cinema audiences had a new appetite for cosmic escapism. But where these were feelgood family films, Alien marked a return to the malevolent flying-saucer flicks of the 50s — with a dash of John Carpenter's Halloween thrown in. Writer Dan O'Bannon and co-storyman Ron Shusett intended Alien to be a low-budget affair, like Halloween — in fact, like Dark Star, O'Bannon's previous film. Over three months, a modest script emerged from a half-finished O'Bannon story about a distress signal in space called Memory. It was retitled Star Beast and finally Alien. When a draft was handed to artist Ron Cobb for preliminary sketchwork, he described it thus:

 "A small, modest little ship with a small crew land on a small planet. They go down a small pyramid and shake up a medium-sized creature. That's about it."

 And that was about it, except with "small, modest, little" replaced by "fucking huge": the ship, commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, ended up being 800 feet long, and the "small pyramid" became a derelict spacecraft as big as a skyscraper. However, the crew stayed small (seven, plus cat), the alien stayed medium-sized (no bigger than the man who played him, supple Masai tribesman Bolaji Badejo) and the story stayed simple: ship lands on planet in response to an SOS that turns out to be a warning; alien infects one of the crew; alien kills the rest of the crew one by one. It's Ten Little Indians in space. So why is it so ground-breaking? What's so special about it? Easy. The look.

 Like the space tug itself, all fantasy films carry in their wake a warehouseful of weird and wonderful production paintings. Sci-fi fans eat them up. Alien is no different; a book of sketches was published to coincide with the film, and the journey it describes from doodle to storyboard to screen is compelling, taking in spacesuit drawings by French comic book legend Moebius, Nostromo interiors by Cobb, and airbrushed alien designs by H.R. Giger. It was Giger who cracked Alien, not just with the creature itself (rarely seen in full anyway), but with the organic innards of the derelict ship and its ghostly egg chamber. It's no surprise to learn that Giger works surrounded by animal skeletons. To describe Alien as a triumph chiefly in terms of its look is not to underplay its dramatic strengths, it's just that ordinary filmgoers tend to nod off if you pay tribute to designers (art directors Roger Christian and Les Dilley, production designer Michael Seymour, FX team Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, Carlo Rambali... wake up!) and thus it's easier to praise Ridley Scott's command of the corridors, or the offbeat cast for giving the crew crumpled life. But it is Alien's unique, tactile world that made it so amenable to sequels: there is little crossover in personnel from one Alien film to the next, yet it seems to have a life all of its own.
Alien set a new blueprint for sci-fi horror: the claustrophobia, the crew class system, and the inevitable scene where someone goes after a cat. Some favour James Cameron's gung-ho sequel, but in duplicating the alien for shoot-'em-up potential, it serves only to highlights the reserve and purity of the original. There are thrills of the highest order — Dallas (Skerritt) in the air shaft while a blip on the tracker closes in; and, of course, the famous chest-burst — but the beauty of Alien remains... its beauty.


Verdict
A fitting birthday tribute to a movie masterpiece. And on the big screen, the chestburster scene just kills.


Reviewed by Kim Newman


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Alien
Empire Star Rating

Welcome to space hell.

In one simple word ...flawless. A true one of a kind masterpiece. They just don't make movies like they use to. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jericho117 at 04:28, 24 October 2013 | Report This Post


And that's why I always cherrie for the Predator!

Two words perfectly describe ALIEN: Dark and ominous. You know you're in for a good time when even the opening title gives you a shiver. The music plays perfectly as the word 'ALIEN' slowly appears, line by line. Then there are the establishing shots of the ship; poorly maintained, claustrophobic. And then there's basically forty minutes of people in a ship pondering and eating and getting along (or not). The film has one little thing that allows it to draw you along so slowly - a promise. A p... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ralph25 at 16:12, 12 April 2013 | Report This Post


Alien Review

A classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 16:08, 21 December 2011 | Report This Post


A Bona Fide Sci Fi Classic

It hasn't aged well, but the sheer extraterrestrial appeal of this space-set horror is timeless, and its' most iconic scenes are now part of horror lore. Oft-imitated, but never bettered- Alien is a real treat, and the perfect antidote for those who thought ET was too cutesy. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 14:17, 15 February 2011 | Report This Post


Great Movie ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by freshBELAIR at 23:43, 25 July 2010 | Report This Post


tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078748/]Alien (director`s cut)fter the news of the release of the blu-ray anthology later this year I really felt like revisiting the first installment of the Alien franchise, this time the 2003 Director`s Cut. Back in 2003, this was the first thing concerning Alien that I ever saw, and that was in cinema. Never had I seen the theatrical version before so this cut will always be special to me. And however many times I`ve seen it since, it`s still brilliant. The w... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 22:09, 19 July 2010 | Report This Post


SO ATMOSPHERIC. Ridley Scott is a genius. He uses little character building and creates a potent atmoshpere. He has a twisted mind aswell when he filmed the chestburster scene none of the actors apart from John Hurt knew what was going to happen. And the shot of the Nostromo in the silhouette of LV426 with the creepy score induces severe bladder problems ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LunarIndustries at 11:23, 16 July 2010 | Report This Post


SO ATMOSPHERIC. Ridley Scott is a genius. He uses little character building and creates a potent atmoshpere. He has a twisted mind aswell when he filmed the chestburster scene none of the actors apart from John Hurt knew what was going to happen. And the shot of the Nostromo in the silhouette of LV426 with the creepy score induses severe bladder problems ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LunarIndustries at 11:23, 16 July 2010 | Report This Post


Like a Haunted House Movie, in Space!

Incredibly, I didn't like Alien the first time I saw it. I thought the suspense was dragged out for too long, there wasn't enough action and, well, it was just downright boring. Then I watched it a second time, just for the hell of it, and I started to appreciate its brilliance. In reality, the suspense is timed perfectly, the Alien itself is terrifying, and the claustrophobia of the spaceship's corridors almost makes it feel like a haunted house movie, except in space. Ridley Scott is in... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by COLO at 18:02, 30 June 2010 | Report This Post


FAVOURITE FILM EVER! ... More

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Posted by JimBill93 at 17:12, 05 March 2010 | Report This Post


re: "supple masai tribesman"

Bolaji Badejo is not a Masai tribesman. He's a Nigerian man who was picked for his rather imposing height (7ft 2in). I'm sure doing a little bit of research wouldn't have hurt. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blumaroon at 15:08, 13 September 2009 | Report This Post


outstanding achievement for Ridley Scott!

an absolutely fantastic film! on of sci-fi's best this one. a classic and one to be treasured and loved by any sci-fi fan. full of action, brilliantly shot, acting is spot on. this is why we love Ridley Scott! :) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by WhiteRabbit23 at 17:20, 10 August 2009 | Report This Post


Drags at first, but then explodes into action!

Very enjoyable film if you can get past the first hour which I found very boring. After that, it's very good with twists and turns around every corner. Still holds up remarkably well today ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by johncarrelson at 10:36, 10 July 2009 | Report This Post


Although not as fast paced or action packed as its sequel, Alien is my favourite of the two. Effortlessly immersive and gripping, this film has more atmosphere and character than any horror or sci-fi movie since, apart from perhaps The Thing. Ripley gets my vote for best movie heroine anytime too, brilliantly portrayed by Weaver. Shame about Alien 3 and 4 mind- and AVP is just embarrasing... Watch Alien. ... More

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Posted by Mort Grimm at 17:25, 08 June 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

L: Wilbert L: DanCurley In Alien it was undiscovered, first time human and stepped on it. Spin in 57 years and Van Luin (the guy chairing Ripley's meeting thing) said "There have been colonists there for over 20 years and they never... etc". So, 37ish years after Alien they start the colonisation process. The company knew that ship was there and they knew something of its contents in Alien (according to Mother computer). It's just an annoying plot hole - many brilliant films... More

Posted by carlosantos at 22:22, 11 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Iconographic Horror

L: Steviebow ALIEN received mixed reviews when it debuted in 1979-- id it? ... More

Posted by Izzet at 15:12, 10 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

Alien has the best trailer too - link] ... More

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Posted by Mr E at 14:03, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

L: Tech_Noir L: Wilbert L: Tech_Noir As is often the case. imagined you saying that as you turned to look out the window with a single tear rolling down your cheek! I take pride in my uniqueness. nother tear rolls down your cheek. You leave the room mumbling "There's something in my eye...." ... More

Posted by Wilbert at 13:11, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

L: Wilbert L: Tech_Noir As is often the case. imagined you saying that as you turned to look out the window with a single tear rolling down your cheek! sp; I take pride in my uniqueness. ... More

Posted by Tech_Noir at 13:10, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

L: Tech_Noir As is often the case. imagined you saying that as you turned to look out the window with a single tear rolling down your cheek! ... More

Posted by Wilbert at 13:09, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

L: Wilbert L: Tech_Noir L: Wilbert You just seem to want the story to follow what interests rather than seeing where they take i] story. I think that is a very weak criticism. But i] story (beyond the derelict) wasn't that interesting. o , but you are very much in the minority. sp; As is often the case. ... More

Posted by Tech_Noir at 13:07, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

L: DanCurley In Alien it was undiscovered, first time human and stepped on it. Spin in 57 years and Van Luin (the guy chairing Ripley's meeting thing) said "There have been colonists there for over 20 years and they never... etc". So, 37ish years after Alien they start the colonisation process. The company knew that ship was there and they knew something of its contents in Alien (according to Mother computer). It's just an annoying plot hole - many brilliant films have 'em but thi... More

Posted by Wilbert at 13:06, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

L: Tech_Noir L: Wilbert You just seem to want the story to follow what interests rather than seeing where they take i] story. I think that is a very weak criticism. But i] story (beyond the derelict) wasn't that interesting. o , but you are very much in the minority. ... More

Posted by Wilbert at 13:05, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

L: Wilbert You just seem to want the story to follow what interests rather than seeing where they take i] story. I think that is a very weak criticism. sp; But i] story (beyond the derelict) wasn't that interesting. Credit to Scott for making it ] interesting but beneath the surface it wasn't anything new. ... More

Posted by Tech_Noir at 13:01, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Alien

In Alien it was undiscovered, first time human and stepped on it. Spin in 57 years and Van Luin (the guy chairing Ripley's meeting thing) said "There have been colonists there for over 20 years and they never... etc". So, 37ish years after Alien they start the colonisation process.   The company knew that ship was there and they knew something of its contents in Alien (according to Mother computer). It's just an annoying plot hole - many brilliant films have 'em but this the one that b... More

Posted by DanCurley at 13:00, 07 September 2008 | Report This Post


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