Ripley’s First Ride - 'Alien' Review
Alien is one of those unique projects in which several brilliant minds, at the beginning of their career, mixed their talents and end up creating a masterpiece.
Thanks to Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed Dune film project that united several key creators in the same direction, a bankrupt Dan O'Bannon co-created along with his friend Ronald Shusett (whose couch he was crashing at the time) this sci-fi/horror story. To round off the look of the film, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss and Jean Giraud (who worked with O'Bannon on Jodorowsky's Dune) printed their visual biomechanical style in this little universe to make it memorable.
And then there was a young Ridley Scott. Excited by the opportunity to direct this story, he ended up infecting his enthusiasm to 20th Century Fox, achieving not only the desired green light but that the limited budget was doubled.
Alien's strength is that it's primarily a straightforward horror "home invasion" movie that happens in space, shot as an art piece and never assumed as a B Monster Movie. It's the mix of genres, the detailed production design, the direction and the performances that subtly show the deeper themes.
The Nostromo commercial spacecraft, with seven passengers on board, is on its way back to earth after successfully completing its mineral extraction mission. After several months in stasis, the crew is awakened much earlier than expected: An unknown help signal from a nearby planet obliges them--by law!--to investigate the source.
While looking for survivors, executive officer Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a parasitic creature that adheres to his face, keeping him alive but in a state of coma. Back in the ship, and after a memorably disgusting process, the creature quickly evolves and starts hunting the crew.
At the same time, it's slowly revealed that these six dedicated workers have been betrayed and deceived by their employer, who has opted to sacrifice their lives in order to take control of the new alien species. The ship's science officer, Ash (Ian Holm) is actually an android designed to secretly carry out the company's orders.
What's Your Rating For Alien (1979)
The design of the Xenomorph reinforces this idea. The alien camouflages perfectly between the machinery and the ship's pipes as an analogy and constant reminder of the deadly exploitative employer and the avarice behind tech development, the main reason the Nostromo crew is now expendable.
It's an enclosed, enslaved, claustrophobic and hostile environment. The horror of not only an invading entity but of knowing that the ones that were meant to look after you have betrayed you.
The other big reason behind Alien's classic status is its portrayal of female empowerment. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) destroyed the "damsel in trouble" trope.
Even in the Nostromo microcosmos where she is not the first, nor the second, but the third one in the chain of command, Ripley is perceived as the more qualified crew member with a higher emotional intelligence. She opposes letting the alien threat enter the ship without the quarantine protocols.
She is the one that discovers the employers' plot and the true nature of Ash. And when she inevitably has to face the Xenomorph, she is the only one that manages to overcome the odds and survive. All that while looking for her beloved cat.
Although in later sequels Ripley would be examined from other interesting angles (like her sexuality and her maternal instincts), it was her overwhelming presence in this movie, the original one, that placed her as one of the most emblematic fictional characters of the 20th century.
Release Year: 1979
Director(s): Ridley Scott
Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards