Aliens (1986) Directed by James Cameron. With Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Paul Reiser.
James Cameron is a man of many notable achievements. Not only is he an Oscar-winning director who can boast to have made the top two, highest grossing films of all time, (Avatar and Titanic), his own exploration of our Earth’s oceans made him the first person to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench on a solo mission. All that said, many still consider his 1986 film, Aliens, to be his landmark achievement to date.
A direct sequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal masterpiece, Aliens manages the clever trick of changing the overall tone, while retaining elements and building on much of what had come before. We rejoin Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) after the events of the previous film, adrift in deep space, frozen in cryo-sleep. After being rescued just after the opening credits, what then occurs is a military search and rescue mission to the planet LV-426, taking Ripley back to the scene of her horror.
While Aliens has more action scenes than its predecessor, Cameron, with help of James Horner’s haunting and suspenseful score, does a first class job of keeping the Alien universe mysterious and creepy, with a script that pays close attention to even its most peripheral of characters – providing endlessly quotable dialogue. Without giving the game away, the film expands brilliantly upon what we learned about the Xenomorph in the 1979 film, adding an inspired new layer of depth to the continuity. Once again, Sigourney Weaver is excellent as the leading lady and is surrounded by memorable performances including a chivalrous Michael Biehn, an agitated Bill Paxton and a calculating Lance Henriksen.
With themes that recall the Vietnam war, coupled with the instinctive protectiveness of the mother-daughter relationship, woven into a species-vs-species right to survive, Aliens is nothing short of breathtaking science fiction-horror at its absolute best. A classic in any genre, not to mention a more than worthy sequel to one of the most nightmarishly vivid concoctions in the history of cinema. Masterful. 5/5