Whenever I talk of films that are must-sees, inevitably discussion gets to the point of films that are considered required viewing, that “everyone has seen” at some point, and what films of this caliber that, incredulously, people have not seen. Films like Willy Wonka, The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, even Raiders of the Lost Ark; films that it would seem impossible to believe that people we know have never seen them. Whenever the topic has steered my way, I have always used one particular example, one film that I myself have never seen that everyone, it seems, has seen: Ridley Scott’s Alien. Well, it looks like I’ll need to think of another example from now on.
Seeing as I had never seen this until today, there must be others who have also never seen this, so I’ll continue as if I’m speaking to these people anyways, just in case they are reading. The film is extremely moody, stiflingly so, and it is this mood, pervasive throughout the entire film, that really sells the product as a whole. Everything, from the music and sound effects to the steady editing job is all designed to extract as much moodiness as possible, and it succeeds unbelievably. The set design and production value of the film are absolutely spectacular; no expense is spared to fully realize the vision put forth by Scott and the design team. This film is just so incredibly detailed that one has to wonder what it must have taken, what the crew must have gone through to succeed so highly. In terms of plot, not much happens in the film, and the film actually benefits from not being so overloaded with stuff to do; there is instead plenty of time to let the scenes linger, and the tension build and build, and let our own imaginations do the worst of the job for us.
The aliens itself are a wonder of special effects and makeup (if indeed the extensive job done to the titular alien can be called merely makeup). The alien itself is a monstrosity, effective and amazing to watch, especially with the film’s moodiness and smart decision to show as little of the creature as possible. The effects used to create the chest-bursting sequence are just as incredible, and are as startling today as they were when the film came out; even the android effects wizardry is to be admired (and I won’t say anything further).
I should note, the version I saw was the 2003 Director’s Cut, which Ridley Scott has acknowledged as being a “different beast” than the original theatrical cut, though I looked up the differences and they were minor and mostly cosmetic. Still, Scott himself credited the theatrical cut with being “as perfect as I could have made it at the time”, so it shouldn’t really matter too much which version you see. Either way, this film is an absolute must-see at some point in your life, in any officially recognized form, and I can speak from experience when I say, better late than never.
Arbitrary Rating: 10/10