Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror action thriller, a 1979 blockbuster that kicked off the reign of the demonic Xenomorph aliens bent on total conquest through biological superiority in pop culture, Alien, is worth all the fanfare that it's cultivated over the decades and still enjoys today. Alien's successes lie in the strengths its modern iterations never seem to understand, that being the art of scarcity. Only through snapshots and eerie hints are we given glimmers, ounces of insight into what malevolent, hostile lifeform is slicing down the commercial flight crew of Nostromo's numbers down through ruthless predatory tactics. Only until the movie's apex, that eventful climax, do we fully get to see the Xenomorph in its full, unadulterated, monstrous glory.
The story takes place within the claustrophobic confines of the commercial spaceship Nostromo, commissioned by the Weyland-Yutani corporation to haul cargo, or so the ship's staff have been led to believe. In truth, a far darker mission soon belies the supposed benign objective, that being to analyse a deadly alien lifeform for military usage to rake in exorbitant profits for the ruthless enterprise. What Alien does best in this regard is understand what it wants to be. A sci-fi horror thriller. So, let's get into why this movie simply works. Without a doubt, this movie's core strength is withholding a visual depiction of the Xenomorph at its biological zenith until the later second act and climax. We see the Facehugger impregnate a crew member of the Nostromo, utilizing his body to incubate itself before bursting forth and rampaging throughout the vessel, but this movie relies on its excellent musical score and cinematography to truly reel in viewers. Of course, being an alien movie, the alien must eventually show itself, but when it does, it only does so in fashions worthy of its awesome grandeur. Firstly by killing an unlucky crewmember named Brett, before systematically eliminating a remainder of the crew, leaving only the movie's main character, Ellen Ripley, alive to battle off the incursion. Despite being armed with technology, the clear dominance of the alien in the battlefield is punctuated through its continued survival, with the cinematic focus being on the hopelessness of the dwindling crew as they face off against a seemingly unstoppable threat that outwits them and carries a clear biological superiority against them. When the Xenomorph appears on-screen, it's going to make its mark on the viewing experience somehow.
That's owed in no small part to the superb, masterful costume designing done on both the Xenomorph and Nostromo space-cruiser. Whenever the Alien does pop up onto screen and stalks the hallways of this unfortunate commercial vessel, it contrasts greatly with the generic grey hallways and patterned floors. During the movie's climax, when smoke is hissing from numerous pipes and openings in the ship, you grow an even more poignant fear of the Xeno, terrified that it could emerge from any crevice at any given moment and gauge our main heroine into shreds. In fact, the overall set design and gore of the movie is so realistically that I nearly lost my appetite for dinner after the scene where the Baby Xenomorph bursts from Kane's chest. There is barely anything computer generated within the film, most of it is prop designed, which makes you appreciate all the dramatic scenes revolving around the Xenomorph even further.
Alien 1979 has spurred a franchise of movies that seek to follow in its footsteps, whether they have succeeded or not is surely up to the viewer. Since I'm not exactly a seasoned fan of the franchise and haven't followed up on the sequels (though I'll be sure to after this!), I can't make any judgments of that caliber quite yet. However, I'm surefire in saying Alien is a prime example of when hard work and genuine dedication to a product pays off. The acting is spot-on, the set design is phenomenal, the terror which the movie builds through masterful cinematography and lighting (courtesy of Ridley Scott) is more than impressive, and ultimately, it makes for a fantastic experience that truly gives meaning to that eerie quote: "In space, no one can hear you scream." So I highly recommend giving this movie a watch, you'll enjoy it! Unless you have phobias of evil baby space aliens bursting from your vital organs. Then maybe just give it a pass. 10/10!