Dir. Ridley Scott, 2003, US, 115 mins
Review by Elizabeth Griffin
The Director’s Cut is digitally enhanced and contains footage that was not used in the original edit. One reinstated scene sees Ripley stumble over the remains of Brett and Dallas cocooned in the alien’s nest, and there are other smaller additions, which help to build the relationships and tensions between the characters. The re-mastered film looks and sounds great and the additional material is well judged and unobtrusive, but essentially this is just a great opportunity to see once again one of the most scary and stylish sci-fi films ever.
The crew of commercial vessel Nostromo, on its return journey to earth, receives what appears to be a SOS from a stricken craft on a nearby planet. Despite concerns, the workers discover that they are under contractual obligation to launch a rescue attempt. Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) leads the mission but returns to the Nostromo when his colleague Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a mysterious organism which refuses to release him from its grip. Second-in-command Ripley is reluctant to allow the creature into the ship but scientist, Ash (Ian Holm), is insistent. Ripley’s misgivings are soon vindicated as the strange and resilient nature of the alien begins to reveal itself to the crew.
From establishing shots of the metallic innards of the labyrinthine ship, to the emergence of the crew from flower-like pods surrounded by white light, to the blue mist of a force-field which hovers over the alien’s eggs, Scott’s film is a visual triumph. Indeed, Alien won the 1979 Oscar for Best Visual Effects, and the supremacy of Swiss artist H. R. Giger‘s ‘bio-mechanical’ alien has rarely been challenged – despite the big budget monster movies of the following decades. The fear-factor is heightened further by Scott’s restraint as for the most part we catch only terrifying glimpses of the alien. The studio famously backed the film because of its “Jaws in space” potential, and just like Spielburg, Scott knows exactly when to conceal and when to reveal his star. Scott’s other central character, Ellen Ripley, was one of the first female leads in a sci-fi/horror film. It was also the role that brought Sigourney Weaver to the attention of movie audiences for the first time, launching a career defined by bold and complex performances. Scott steadily builds the tension around his heroine, who struggles to keep control as her shipmates are picked off one by one. The film’s climax, in which Ripley with all her strength and vulnerability, fights for survival against the relentless creature, is one of the most unnerving sequences in sci-fi cinema history.
As Scott says himself, “The film looks today as good as it did 24 years ago – almost better.”