Alien is a story of a group of astronauts who stumble upon a deadly parasitic creature of unknown origins. I am sure you have heard this line umpteen times before, but believe me, Alien is so much more than that.

Review by SAndman
August 15, 2008

Director: Ridley Scott

story: Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett
screenplay: Dan O'Bannon

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley
Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas
Veronica Cartwright as Lambert
Ian Holm as Science Officer Ash
John Hurt as Kane
Harry Dean Stanton as Brett

Released: 1979

Ash: You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.

Ridley Scott's Alien introduced a number of new topics to the genre. The subtle handling of the plot, the deft script which relies heavily on subtext, the revolutionary special effects and the exceptional casting make this seventies movie a true milestone in SF cinematography.

The plot of the movie is set in the year 2122. On its way home the interstellar commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, with its crew of seven and its precious cargo - a refinery processing 20,000,000 tons of mineral ore - gets rerouted from its programmed course.

In the absence of the crew, which are put in cryo sleep due to the length of the voyage, the ship is run by the central computer unit, M-U-TH-R 182, or "Mother", as the crew members jokingly refer to it. The moniker, as we learn later in the movie, turns out to be an ironic twist.

Once the crew wake up they learn, much to their dismay, that the ship's course has been reprogrammed and that they are a way outside the Solar system, headed for LV 426 to check out a distress signal picked up by "Mother".

What you has always struck me about these characters is that they are your basic dysfunctional human group. They bicker over the bonus, gripe about the task at hand, and none of them comes across as a particularly likeable human being.

Another thing you notice early on is that these seven astronauts have no real power aboard the ship. It is the ubiquitous COMPANY that calls all the shots. Nostromo and all the cargo are the property of the Company and the crew are under contracts which relegate them to mere assets. Even the commanding officers serve no other purpose than to pass on the Company's orders and see that they are done.

Alien paints a stark picture of the future in which all considerations are secondary to the interests of the Company.

It is also a movie about the fragility of the social compact. And about how easily it can be ripped apart. Maybe even scarier than the creature itself is the lesson we take from the movie - all social bonds are provisional and arbitrary at best.

And the creature! This is truly the stuff nightmares are made on. The concept of alien taps into some deep-rooted phobias. We are scared that something very very bad could happen to our bodies and our habitat.

Just as effective is the creature's design. We want to turn away. But we can't! We are transfixed by its slime, its jaws, its teeth, its double-jaw, its ugliness, and yes, its perverted beauty.

I cringed in terror every time I watched it, and I have seen it over 20 times. The scenes like the one in which facehugger springs upon the unsuspecting Kane, or the one in which grisly chestburster pops out of Kane's convulsing body, or the classic shower scene involving the adult xenomorph, or ...I could go on like this for a long time. These sequences made me crawl up the back of the sofa over and over again. And yet for all that, I could not stop watching.

Ultimately no review, nor any critical text, can fully do justice to the haunting charm of Ridley Scott's masterpiece.

I can only hope that the nightmares you get from Alien will be of the less enduring and fleshy variety than mine were.

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