Alien Review
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What makes a classic? To me, a classic is something often imitated but never bettered, whether it's a book, a piece of music, or a film. It also has to touch a nerve with the audience, get inside them, and linger long after the experience itself is over. Alien certainly does that.

Traveling back to earth with its cargo of oil, the commercial-towing vehicle Nostromo almost doesn't need its seven-member crew—so much so that they're asleep in suspended animation for most of the time. But should the need arise, they can be awakened by the ship’s computer, Mother. So when a distress signal broadcast from an unknown planet is picked up by the ship, Mother rouses them.

Space-faring protocols oblige the crew to land on the planet and investigate. Down on its stormy surface they find a derelict ship unlike anything ever seen before, and in its hold is a cargo of barrel-sized eggs. The ship’s first officer, Kane (John Hurt), is infected by the contents of one of the eggs, and despite objections from warrant officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), he's brought back aboard the Nostromo.

From then on things go from bad to worse. The infection proves deadly, but not in a silent-bacterial way. A seven-foot-tall skeletal alien with locust-like jaws and Dracula's teeth has gotten aboard the ship, and it hasn’t come in peace.

A fine performance from the seven actors playing the crew gives Alien a gritty, realistic atmosphere. Veronica Cartwright, in the part of Lambert, is particularly good. As the situation gets worse, so does her state of mind. It's the eighth cast member, however, who leaves the greatest impression. Only glimpsed briefly here and there, the alien really is the stuff of nightmares. When Ripley asks science officer Ash (Ian Holm) how they can kill the creature, his deadpan answer is chilling—you can't.

Besides the excellent acting and fantastic creature effects, Alien also has simplicity on its side. The plot is uncomplicated, but it does have a twist. The soundtrack ebbs and flows with strange, otherworldly noises; and the cinematography is broad and sweeping outside the ship, but tight and claustrophobic inside.

No review of Alien would be complete without mentioning the original movie poster and its immortal tag line: “In space no one can hear you scream.” Very true, but they can in your living room, so make sure you watch Alien with the lights on.

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