Monday, 19 October 2015

Alien (1979): A review

Yup, it has taken me 20 years to finally watch one of the most well-known films of the last century but this isn't through purposeful rejection.

To be honest sci-fi films aren't always to my fancy and I usually tend to avoid them unless through exceptional recommendation but with this being a required watch due to a university module on screenplay writing, I thought I'd better give it a watch and see what it was all about.

Here's what I thought of the 1979 classic:

Note, I watched with a 'writer's eye', meaning I looked at it with the words of Syd Field ringing in my ears. Secondly, I watched it with the knowledge that the film was 36 years old and special effects etc. were going to be of a low quality.


It's standard, basic and relatively straight forward.

Act 1- A group of scientists are alone and vulnerable in the middle of space.

-A mysterious message leads them to divert their own mission and investigate.

Act 2- The investigation goes wrong and an unknown life form finds itself on board and develops into a killing machine.

- Majority of the film has the character trying to kill the alien in the maze of the ship's tunnels and corridors. Explosions, screams and flashing lights all included.

Act 2 into Act 3- All die apart from one (two if you include the cat) who then kills the alien and gets away, leaving behind a huge explosion and all previous scenery as fragments of dust, floating around in the abyss of space

Follows the three act structure pretty nicely don't you think?

Yet, though it might seem like I am ridiculing the movie as a whole, I wish to do the contrary.

The scene in which the eggs are found and the hatchling flings itself onto the unexpecting investigator; surprising and exciting.

The scene in which the poor man's stomach explodes in an even more surprising rebirth of the initial hatchling; grotesque, macabre and brilliantly original.

The picking off of characters, all by gruesome and horrible deaths; expected and satisfying.

The climax of the exploding ship and the escape of the exhausted and heroic woman, all alone apart from the company of a cat; full of sympathy and relief. However, as a hater of cats, also quite irritating.

Return of the Alien; in my eyes unexpected and refreshing.

Alien finally dies for good; just in time before it got irritating.

All in all, a bloody well structured film which follows a simple and linear plot. Easy to follow but relentless with its entertainment. A film to remember and admire with its use of plot and structure.


You have the masculine leader of the ship. A calm and brave man who looks rough on the edges and willing to give his team responsibilities and trust them to do their job. Obviously had to die trying to confront the alien with a flamethrower.

The idiot, who in fact is not an idiot but dies in an idiotic fashion trying to save the cat, a cat that riled me from this point onwards in the film.

The weak and cowardly woman who wishes to leave as soon as the alien kills. Goes onto die in the same fashion, screaming and crying as the alien devours her.

The black man, full of character and likeable from the off. Though the cliche of black men in films is that they die off soon, this one does not. He loses his cool after too many of his colleagues have died, dies in an attempt to kill the alien but does so in a too heated fashion.

The two brits. Obviously one was going to be a robot because a robot so intelligent had to have a british accent. A robot that dies in a decapitation after becoming the villain and the reason the alien got on board in the first place. Who doesn't love a villain with a british accent? And the second who leads the initial investigation and gets mauled by the first birth of the alien. Goes onto die in spectacular fashion with his abdomen exploding in an exceptional scream and the alien first showing itself as its new and deadlier form. Only brits get the best deaths.

And finally the hero, a female of course. Who through careful judgement and bravery, the thought process that only a female could have, somehow avoids the same fate as all the others and survives while making sure the cat comes to... bloody cat.

A list of characters that covers all personalities; always a good addition to a film. Covers all bases if you will.

Overall review:

Like I said before, it does everything right. All the aspects of a good film are in this. Suspense, surprise, gore to a perfect level, fear, excitement and arguably the most important , resolution. The only criticism I could have of this film is that it perhaps comes across as too straightforward and perhaps does not convey enough emotion. I like films which stimulate a bit of sadness in me and throw me off. Films like Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile always get me in terms of leaving on a sad but happy note at the same time. Interstellar and Inception (my two favourite films) leave me in awe of cinema and bewildered how any writer can be that original and exceptional in their writing.

Alien, however, did not. I felt quite relieved it was over if I'm being honest.

However, saying that, in terms of what and how a film should be in terms of structure and plot, this is perhaps right at the top.

A film to be admired and respected to the highest level.

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