Sir Ridley Scott


Suggested Films:


Alien (1979)
Blade Runner (1982)
G ladiator (2000)
Hannibal (2001)
Black Hawk Down (2001)

Ridley Scott has been alternately praised as a true cinematic visionary and criticized as a slick, style-over-substance shooter. A look at his filmography shows that both qualities are present – sometimes even in the same film.

He was born in South Shields on 30th November 1937. He studied at the Royal College of Art before moving on to work in television commercials. Scott made his feature film debut in 1977 with The Duellists, a striking adaptation of a Joseph Conrad story about two military officers (Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) during the Napoleonic wars who find themselves caught up in a decades-spanning personal conflict. The movie made no money, but got Scott a lot of attention and gained a small cult following.

This was nothing to what Alien (1979) was to do for Scott. Groundbreaking on a number of levels: first female butch heroine, special effects and suspense not seen since Max Von Sydow and Jason Millar walked up the stairs…The film is a visually striking and supremely scary monster movie about a creature stalking the corridors of the spaceship Nostromo. The actual name of the spaceship is lifted from a novel by Joseph Conrad – whose quote starts the film and the same writer whose novel was the basis for the previous Scott film The Duellists (1977).

If Alien was to be Ridley Scotts breakthrough movie it was then his next film which was to codify him as a cult director. In 1982 we saw the bleak early 21st Century future through the eyes of a Blade Runner. Not a massive success at the box office – it would gather cult audiences over the years and have people wondering if dreaming of sheep meant you were an android!! Visually stunning with its backdrops and intellectually challenging in its plot – I myself was puzzled if Decker was a replicant until I saw the directors cut. Scott was criticised for too many visuals and not enough substance – this would stay with him through his whole career.

Post Blade Runner things did not go well for Scott. Legend (1985) was a good movie – if slightly dubious in plot. Pretty to look at but you wouldn’t want to spend to much time on it – like Anna Kournakovia. There is a better vreion coming out called the ‘ultimate directors cut’. The late eighties was unremarkable – with Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) and Black Rain (1989).

The early ninties was better with ‘Thelma & Louise’ (1991) – it became a blockbuster feminist buddy movie starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis. The script surrounded these towo girls running from the law – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for sexually liberated females. The good crtical reviews this had were quickly cancelled out by 1942: Conquest of Paradise.

Scott moved seamlessly through the nineties with the fairly dreadful White Squall (1996) and Alien for the 1990’s - G.I. Jane (1997). It had been 18 years since Ridley Scott had really stolen the screen but the resurrection man did it all again with the majestic Roman epic, Gladiator (2000). A success at the box office and Oscars alike it was a massive worldwide hit. Again it was Scotts eye for detail and breathtaking sets and scenes made it a feast for the eyes. Where Ben Hur actually had the people – Gladiator was CGIed in the most part – this didn’t matter. He got great support from all the actors and the first big scene of the Germanic wars has to be one of my favourites of all time.

He soon earned the privilege of directing the much talked about sequel to Silence of the Lambs – Hannibal (2001). It was a success at the box office but not so with the critics. I have to say I thought that this was grossly unfair. The adaptation was good – except the audience I’m sure couldn’t stomach the fact that Starling fell in love with Hannibal and strolled off into the sunset. The acting was good – the scenes well shot and executed. The script was funny – gut wrenching and wholly believable as a sequel. It could have all gone wrong until Scott brought Steve Zaillian was brought in to rework David Mamets disastrous crack at adapting the book.

Scott moved from Hannibal directly into Black Hawk Down, the gut-wrenchingly violent dramatization of one of America’s most tragic military debacles in recent history, which opened to strong reviews and solid box-office in late 2001 (its release was moved up because of current events) and gained Scott an Oscar nomination for Best Director. The film itself was strong but one aspect that detracted for me was the ‘we’re going to walk out of this city’ at the end. For a start it actually didn’t happen that way and I thought that Scott would notice that it was tacky and jingoist but I suppose it made the film more palatable for American audiences. Watch out for the trainspotters playing the yanks.














Ridley Scott, british film, british director, british movie