Director: James Cameron
Available on Netflix: No (subject to change)
OK I’m just going to come out and say it. Aliens is the greatest ever war movie. I could probably just leave it there but they’re not paying me to state the obvious (what? They’re not paying me? Damn, I really shouldn’t have bought that yacht on credit). Anyway you know the story, it’s the sequel to Ridley Scott’s horror classic Alien. The military respond to a distress beacon from a human colony by sending a hardened platoon of marines accompanied by Alien survivor Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) to the colony where they bump into everyone’s favourite extraterrestrial:
Alien was released in 1979 to huge acclaim so in 1984 some Hollywood producer looked at the claustrophobic, tense, creeping dread of Alien and had a brainwave ‘I know! Let’s make a sequel with the guy who directed the violent action movie The Terminator’. And guess what? It became one of the most loved films of all time. I’ve personally watched it countless times, can quote it enough to annoy anyone in a 15 mile radius (seriously I’ve checked on my motion tracker). Now I have the task of explaining why and need to keep it from becoming the length of a book.
What is great about Aliens is that it doesn’t diminish the menace of the creature introduced so memorably by Scott. James Cameron respects the source material but takes it’s in another direction entirely. Where Alien had one monster up against a handful of unarmed space miners, Aliens takes a squad of highly trained, cocky, heavily armed marines and throws hundreds of xenomorphs at them. He then builds the tension to breaking point before the two collide. We the audience and Ripley know how dangerous the beast is so we know that things won’t end well. And when it happens it’s absolutely exhilarating. Cameron is a total expert at choreographing action scenes and Aliens is his masterclass. Every minute detail has been laboured over from the cool noise of the marines’ pulse rifles (I still really want one) to the design of the strange bio-mechanical alien environment. Another area this care is apparent is in the characters with almost every person, no matter how expendable, being memorable. Great lines are shared amongst the entire cast with standouts being Bill Paxton as Hudson, Paul Reiser as the slimy Burke, and of course Ripley who as the film progresses displays her maternal instinct to an extreme degree.
I could go into how the movie is a metaphor for everything from the Vietnam conflict to the dangers of corporate greed but I’ll leave that to smarter critics. All you need to take away from this is that Alien might be the best action movie ever and hasn’t aged at all in an era of more and more sophisticated special effects. Oh and the directors cut is worth watching too. So what Aliens review wouldn’t end with a clever quote from the film? Here goes – ‘You always were an asshole, Gorman!’. Ah shit I’m no good at relevant quotes, just watch Aliens and fill in your own one.