Movie review

Alien: The Director's Cut
Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt
Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm

Director : Ridley Scott

Alien: The Director's CutYou've seen the score, and maybe you're wondering what makes this 24 year old movie so great. Alien may be resplendent with some of cinema's classic scenes, such as the baby alien bursting from John Hurt's chest in a spray of blood, but surely that's just nostalgia, right?

Wrong. The truth is that even in 2003, Alien: The Director's Cut is still a fantastic movie. In 1979 it was all that and more. Let's not forget that the original release was in 1979; from a decade where science fiction was often used as a thin disguise for socio-political commentary. Silent Running, Soylent Green, Rollerball . . . they all had hidden agendas - more often than not commenting on the needs of big business being put ahead of the needs of the people or the planet.
    On the surface, Alien shared these concerns, but they were only used as a plot device to unleash the movie's eponymous subject. In reality, Alien succeeded for exactly the same reason Star Wars did - it combined two existing genres in a fresh and exciting manner. While Star Wars wedged a larger than life adventure story into the previously thoughtful science fiction genre, Alien did the same with the perennial slasher flick, and thus owes as much to Psycho and Halloween as it does its sci-fi predecessors.

The chance to that this re-release gives us to see this movie in its natural environment should not be passed up, because no matter how many times you've seen it all the small screen, it is so much better on this scale. Newly buffed up by director Ridley Scott, and featuring footage never included in the original theatre release, Alien has aged remarkably well. HR Giger's set and alien designs have a timeless appeal rarely captured on film, and the majority of the special effects benefit from their simplicity. Only the reanimation of the head of the mechanoid Ash looks truly dated, and to be fair this looked ropey back in '79!
    Other aspects that haven't dated are the pacing, tension and palpable fear. This was only Ridley Scott's second movie, and was nothing at all like its predecessor The Duellists. Scott's innate grasp of a new genre is remarkable, and taken as a horror movie, Alien has few peers.
    While admittedly the cast gets systematically get butchered, they all get a chance to shine before they go. From Harry Dean Stanton as the wise-cracking Brett, to Ian Holm as the duplicitous Ash, they are whittled down until only Sigourney Weaver's Ripley is left to stand against the alien terror.

Often, movies that a lauded as classics are not the sort of things you'd actually want to spend an evening watching. As one of the few 70s science fiction flicks that has stood the test of time, Alien: The Director's Cut truly warrants a second lease of life.
    So don't go any see Alien solely for the nostalgia. Don't even go and see it to witness the inspiration behind so many other great movies - from Event Horizon to Pitch Black. Go and see Alien: The Director's Cut because it's a great film. Period.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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