Ridley Scott Essay - Critical Essays

Scott, Ridley


Ridley Scott 1937-

English director and screenwriter.

The following entry presents an overview of Scott's career through 2003.

Since the release of his feature film debut, The Duellists (1977), Scott has emerged as one of the preeminent and most commercially successful directors in modern filmmaking. Known for his visual excess and stylish special effects in such films as Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), and Gladiator (2000), Scott both embraces and subverts the traditions of large-budget, Hollywood spectacle films. His movies frequently present sweeping epic storylines—often set against the backdrop of fantastic environments or major historical events—that focus on isolated characters overcoming adversity. However, several of Scott's works, particularly Thelma and Louise (1991) and Matchstick Men (2003), have also been noted for their keen psychological insight and complex characterizations.

Biographical Information

Scott was born in England on November 30, 1937, in South Shields, Northumberland, County Durham. During his childhood, he spent five years living in Germany, where his father, who remained an officer in the British Army after World War II, was posted. Scott studied painting at the West Hartlepool School of Art and later graduated from the Royal College of Art in London, where he studied advertising and graphic design. In 1965 Scott directed his first short film, Boy on a Bicycle, which was funded by the British Film Institute Experimental Film Fund. The short featured Scott's father and his younger brother, Tony, who also became a successful filmmaker, directing such films as Top Gun (1986) and True Romance (1993). After finishing Boy on a Bicycle, Scott began working as a set designer for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He became a director for BBC Television and worked on episodes of the series Z Cars in 1966 and The Informer in 1966 and 1967. In 1967 Scott founded the commercial production company, Ridley Scott Associates, which has produced several award-winning television commercials. Scott's first full-length film, The Duellists, won the award for best first feature at the 1977 Cannes International Film Festival. He followed The Duellists with the science-fiction horror film Alien. The widespread commercial success of Alien cemented Scott's reputation as skilled director, which has since been confirmed by the continuing success of his subsequent films. Scott has won a wide variety of awards and accolades, including nominations for best director from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Thelma and Louise, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down (2001). Thelma and Louise was nominated for six Academy Awards in 1991, winning the best screenplay award. Gladiator was nominated for twelve Academy Awards in 2000, winning best picture, best actor, best costume design, best visual effects, and best sound. Black Hawk Down was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2001, winning best editing and best sound. In 2002 Scott was knighted as an officer of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Major Works

Though Scott's cinematic oeuvre varies in genre and narrative style, one of the core continuing elements throughout his films is an emphasis on spectacular and atmospheric imagery. The Duellists, based on the short story “The Duel,” by Joseph Conrad, is set during the Napoleonic wars. The story follows two French officers who repeatedly cross paths over a period of fifteen years, with each encounter resulting in a duel of honor. After his foray into historical fiction, Scott turned to Alien, a film that blends two disparate movie genres—science-fiction and haunted-house horror. The action of Alien primarily takes place upon a vast industrial spaceship, the Nostromo. On an isolated planet in the future, the crew of the Nostromo finds an abandoned ship, infested with a strange parasitic lifeform. The parasite eventually develops into an enormous, acid-dripping monster, who methodically kills each of the crew members. In the film's conclusion, the sole survivor of the alien's attack, a female captain named Ripley, is forced to battle the monster. Ripley's fight is complicated by an android who works for the company that owns the Nostromo, who wants to capture the alien for military research. In his next film, Blade Runner, Scott again created a narrative that combines science-fiction with another atypical genre, the film noir detective story. Loosely based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner juxtaposes a traditional 1940s pulp fiction detective adventure with a visually stunning portrait of a dystopian American future. Set in Los Angeles in 2019, the film's protagonist, Rick Deckard, is a “blade runner”—a bounty hunter who is commissioned to track down a group of violent, runaway androids who are nearly indistinguishable from human beings. These artificial lifeforms—called replicants—are only constructed to live for four years at a time due to human prejudice towards their physical and mental superiority. The leader of the replicants, Roy Batty, has come to L.A. to find their creator and force him to let them live longer. In 1992 Scott released a director's cut of Blade Runner, which significantly altered the original film. In Scott's revision, he added additional scenes, removed narration from Deckard's character, and changed the film's ending to imply that Deckard is a replicant himself.

After directing the critically-maligned fantasy film Legend (1985), Scott released the smaller, more intimate suspense-thriller Someone to Watch over Me (1987). The film concerns Mike Keegan, a detective from Queens, New York, who is protecting a Manhattan heiress from a murderous stalker. As Keegan becomes preoccupied with the woman he's protecting, their developing relationship begins to threaten his marriage and family. Highlighting the contrasts between modern American and Japanese culture, Black Rain (1989) is an action-oriented crime film in which an American detective travels to Osaka, Japan, to track down a group of gangsters. Scott followed Black Rain with one of his most popular and controversial films to date, Thelma and Louise. Using the format of the road movie, Thelma and Louise presents a compelling portrayal of two female friends who feel trapped within their prescribed roles in patriarchal American society. The film opens with Thelma, an oppressed housewife, and Louise, a cynical waitress, setting out for a weekend fishing trip. The pair is sidetracked after Thelma is almost raped, and Louise is forced to shoot and kill Thelma's attacker. Fearing that no one would believe that the killing was justifiable, Thelma and Louise set off on a cross-country trek, planning to take sanctuary in Mexico. Though they are being pursued by a phalanx of law enforcement agents, the two women begin a multi-state crime spree to fund their escape. In the film's widely-debated conclusion, Thelma and Louise drive their car off the edge of a canyon to avoid being captured by the police, choosing to end their lives free rather than submitting to the will of others. In 1992 Scott marked the five-hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus's “discovery” of America with the epic film 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Focusing on Columbus's struggles with government and church authorities to finance and outfit his voyages, Scott characterizes Columbus as a visionary pioneer akin to the astronauts of the twentieth century. Scott's next film, White Squall (1996), further develops his exploration of the perils of ocean voyages. Set in modern times, the plot follows a captain and his crew of juvenile-delinquent boys who learn discipline, bravery, and comradery when their sailboat meets a deadly ocean storm. Scott continued his emphasis on strong female protagonists—as seen in Alien and Thelma and Louise—with G.I. Jane (1997), in which a woman, Lt. Jordan O'Neil, aspires to become the first female soldier admitted into the prestigious Navy SEALS program. O'Neil eventually earns her place with the rest of the SEALS in combat after saving the life of the superior officer who had earlier brutalized her.

Scott revisited the genre of large-scale historical epics with Gladiator, which won the best picture award in 2000 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. True to its name, Gladiator is set in ancient Rome and follows Maximus, a betrayed former general, who is forced to engage in gruesome hand-to-hand combat in the Roman Coliseum for the entertainment of the masses. Due to his skill in battle, Maximus becomes a celebrity and uses his newfound fame to overthrow Emperor Commodus, the man who killed his family. Scott further explored the suspense-thriller genre with Hannibal (2001), based on the novel by Thomas Harris. Hannibal is the sequel to Silence of the Lambs—a Harris novel that also spawned a popular film adaptation—which features a young F.B.I. agent named Clarice Starling matching wits with Hannibal Lecter, a highly cultured doctor and notorious serial killer and cannibal. The narrative of Hannibal presents Lecter as a charming anti-hero as it constructs a final showdown between Lecter and Starling orchestrated by one of Lecter's few surviving victims. Returning to the military world of G.I. Jane, Scott directed the gritty war film Black Hawk Down, inspired by the nonfiction book by Mark Bowden. Based on a true incident and told from the perspective of multiple characters, Black Hawk Down recounts a series of harrowing events in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, when United States Army Rangers made a failed attempt to arrest a group of brutal Somalian warlords, resulting in a massive street battle. In 2003 Scott explored a new film genre—the con artist film—with Matchstick Men. The story revolves around Roy Waller, an incredibly phobic and obsessive-compulsive criminal on the verge of pulling off his largest scam to date. Matters are complicated when Roy's teenage daughter unexpectedly arrives and needles her way into Roy's schemes.

Critical Reception

Many film scholars have come to a general consensus that Scott's films typically excel in the realm of visual imagery, but are often weak in narrative and character development. Critics have been overwhelmingly impressed with Scott's cinematography and artistic design—Blade Runner, in particular, has been singled out for its visionary representation of a crumbling futuristic world. Reviewers have noted how many of the elements in Scott's films—the creature in Alien, the final shot of Thelma and Louise—have become iconic symbols often referenced in popular culture. However, some have characterized Scott's visual extravagance as a symptom of his origins in commercial television, commenting that his excessive optical effects are stylish but lacking in depth and expressive significance. Thelma and Louise has attracted a wide range of debate regarding its central themes. Some have argued that the film is a feminist tale of female empowerment, while others have countered, claiming that the film uses the trappings of feminism to create an exploitative female-fantasy adventure. Commentators have also discussed the role of violence in Thelma and Louise, with certain scholars criticizing Scott for glorifying violence as a means of conflict resolution. Several critics have also faulted Scott's military films, G.I. Jane and Black Hawk Down, asserting that the films act as fascist propaganda for the American military complex. Others have disagreed with this assessment, however, and noted that these films present a balanced portrayal of the American military.

Principal Works

Boy on a Bicycle [director and screenwriter] (short film) 1965

The Duellists [director] (film) 1977

*Alien [director] (film) 1979

Blade Runner [director] (film) 1982

Legend [director] (film) 1985

Someone to Watch over Me [director] (film) 1987

Black Rain [director] (film) 1989

Thelma and Louise [director] (film) 1991

1492: Conquest of Paradise [director] (film) 1992

White Squall [director] (film) 1996

G.I. Jane [director] (film) 1997


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Harvey R. Greenberg (essay date fall 1986)

SOURCE: Greenberg, Harvey R. “Reimagining the Gargoyle: Psychoanalytic Notes on Alien.Camera Obscura, no. 15 (fall 1986): 86-109.

[In the following essay, Greenberg discusses the qualities of the central monster in Alien, rating it among the most frightening in film history, and examines the significance of the monster as a symbol of “capitalism's depredations.”]

I admire its purity … a survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse or delusions of morality. …

Ash, Science Officer, the Nostromo

If Hair proclaimed the Age of Aquarius, Close Encounters...

(The entire section is 8473 words.)

Peter Fitting (essay date November 1987)

SOURCE: Fitting, Peter. “Futurecop: The Neutralization of Revolt in Blade Runner.Science-Fiction Studies 14, no. 3 (November 1987): 340-54.

[In the following essay, Fitting explores the contrasting messages regarding the use and misuse of technology in the film Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel on which the film was based.]

My grand theme—who is human and who only appears (masquerades) as human?

Philip K. Dick, Comment (1976) on “Second Variety”

Is it still necessary to state that not technology,...

(The entire section is 7369 words.)

Simon Cunliffe (review date 11 March 1988)

SOURCE: Cunliffe, Simon. “A Real Man.” New Statesman 115, no. 2972 (11 March 1988): 38.

[In the following review, Cunliffe explores the theme of the vulnerability of the family in the context of “the zeitgeist of AIDS-and-Reagan America” in Someone to Watch over Me.]

Ridley Scott's new film, [Someone to Watch over Me,] its title taken from a George and Ira Gershwin lyric, is a cracking good thriller. And, like other contemporary Hollywood movies, it filters its taut, suspenseful plot through the zeitgeist of an Aids-and-Reagan America—making comparison with Fatal Attraction initially irresistible.

Mike Keegan (Tom...

(The entire section is 1034 words.)

William Fisher (essay date autumn 1988)

SOURCE: Fisher, William. “Of Living Machines and Living-Machines: Blade Runner and the Terminal Genre.” New Literary History 20, no. 1 (autumn 1988): 187-98.

[In the following essay, Fisher identifies an emergent genre of “multinational, commercial avant-garde” films which he labels the Terminal Genre. Fisher comments that Blade Runner represents the highest achievement of this developing genre.]

The possibility of finding likeness in diversity has always been a safety valve on the critical apparatus—“when in doubt, subsume it under a rubric.” Now, on the other side of long debates on the subject in film studies, we understand “genre” to...

(The entire section is 5022 words.)

Peter Ruppert (essay date 1989)

SOURCE: Ruppert, Peter. “Blade Runner: The Utopian Dialectics of Science Fiction Films.” Cineaste 17, no. 2 (1989): 8-13.

[In the following essay, Ruppert argues that Blade Runner is critical of the dominant social ideology in late consumer capitalism, observing that the film expresses ideological ambiguities which arouse the spectator's desire for an alternative to the status quo.]

Since first envisioned by Thomas More as an imaginary site that playfully maps out the possibilities for a rich and rewarding collective life. Utopia has been systematically undermined in its own form and survives today in a variety of grim and menacing visions (Orwell,...

(The entire section is 4484 words.)

Thomas B. Byers (essay date autumn 1989)

SOURCE: Byers, Thomas B. “Kissing Becky: Masculine Fears and Misogynist Moments in Science Fiction Films.” Arizona Quarterly 45, no. 3 (autumn 1989): 77-95.

[In the following essay, Byers comments that Alien, Blade Runner, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers include several moments of “startling misogyny,” arguing that such instances of cinematic textual excess express “both the instability of male identity and the vulnerability of male hegemony.”]

The four classic science-fiction films to be discussed here—Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926), Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers...

(The entire section is 7923 words.)

John L. Cobbs (essay date 1990)

SOURCE: Cobbs, John L. “Alien as an Abortion Parable.” Literature/Film Quarterly 18, no. 3 (1990): 198-201.

[In the following essay, Cobbs asserts that images symbolizing abortion act as a central leitmotif of Alien.]

Ridley Scott's 1979 thriller [Alien] was greeted with no particular fanfare by the reviewers, and if there was a critical consensus it was that the film was at best watchable pabulum—reasonably professionally handled visually and enjoyably scary, but without significant nuance to qualify for discussion as art. Jack Kroll's comment was typical: “It's about time someone made a science fiction thriller that thrills, that has no truck...

(The entire section is 2335 words.)

Pat Dowell (review date 1990)

SOURCE: Dowell, Pat. “Black Rain: Hollywood Goes Japan Bashing.” Cineaste 17, no. 3 (1990): 8-10.

[In the following review, Dowell contends that Black Rain is an expression of American economic insecurity in the face of a perceived Japanese economic superiority.]

One of the many television news stories after the California earthquake in October 1989 examined Japan's quake readiness. There, if a temblor strikes, children know what to do “by rote,” according to the network reporter, who would have undoubtedly said “by heart” if these had been spunky American kids or Frenchmen or Laplanders or anybody but the next generation of profit-hungry...

(The entire section is 2076 words.)

Suzanne Moore (review date 2 February 1990)

SOURCE: Moore, Suzanne. “Sun Rises in the East.” New Statesman and Society 3, no. 86 (2 February 1990): 44.

[In the following review, Moore notes how Scott portrays American individualism in contrast with Japanese collectivism in Black Rain.]

Is it really fair to compare a film made in one of the poorest countries in the world with a $37 million production by one of Hollywood's flashiest directors? No of course not. But Yaaba, made in Burkina Faso, a country with no filmmaking infrastructure will have to compete with Ridley Scott's Black Rain. Such is the democracy of the marketplace.

In fact this week's releases seem deliberately...

(The entire section is 1039 words.)

Ridley Scott and Amy Taubin (interview date July 1991)

SOURCE: Scott, Ridley, and Amy Taubin. “Ridley Scott's Road Work.” Sight and Sound 1, no. 3 (July 1991): 18-19.

[In the following interview, Scott discusses the filming of Thelma and Louise, the movie's role as a feminist film, and his future projects.]

Its high spirits and dazzling good looks notwithstanding, Thelma and Louise suggests that the situation of American women is dire indeed. When Louise (Susan Sarandon) comes to the rescue of Thelma (Geena Davis) and kills the man who's attempting to rape her, few in the audience feel that murder is unjustified. And when Louise rejects Thelma's suggestion that they go to the police with a despairing,...

(The entire section is 2083 words.)

Janet Abrams (review date July 1991)

SOURCE: Abrams, Janet. Review of Thelma and Louise, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 1, no. 3 (July 1991): 55-6.

[In the following review, Abrams comments that, despite Thelma and Louise's apparent celebration of feminine freedom, the film actually expresses an oppressive attitude toward women who “take their lives into their own hands.”]

Trapped in a claustrophobic marriage to carpet salesman and giant-sized infant Darryl, Thelma Dickinson is coaxed into joining her friend Louise Sawyer, a harassed coffee-shop waitress, on a weekend spree [in Thelma and Louise]. The trunk of Louise's car overloaded with Thelma's luggage, they set off in high...

(The entire section is 1010 words.)

Elissa Marder (essay date September 1991)

SOURCE: Marder, Elissa. “Blade Runner's Moving Still.” Camera Obscura, no. 27 (September 1991): 89-107.

[In the following essay, Marder discusses the interplay between artificial and organic beings in Blade Runner and examines questions of filmic representation regarding the relationship between human spectators and visual technology.]

In the decade that has elapsed since Blade Runner's first commercial release, Ridley Scott's 1982 science-fiction film has been retroactively hailed as one of the most powerful and influential examples of cinematic postmodernism.1 Despite the fact that Blade Runner has achieved almost canonical...

(The entire section is 8150 words.)

Richard Alleva (review date 13 September 1991)

SOURCE: Alleva, Richard. “Over the Edge?” Commonweal 118, no. 15 (13 September 1991): 513-15.

[In the following review, Alleva comments that Scott's skillful portrayal of two strong female protagonists elevates Thelma and Louise into “a cultural milestone.”]

Scarfed and sunglassed like Jackie Onassis, the two women drive their Thunderbird convertible through the Southwest toward Mexico. They chug little bottles of Wild Turkey whiskey, bang on wheel and dashboard to the beat of the country and western music that blares from the car radio, and sing along raucously when they're not making spontaneous whoops of joy. A casual observer might take these two for...

(The entire section is 1569 words.)

David Desser (essay date 1991)

SOURCE: Desser, David. “The New Eve: The Influence of Paradise Lost and Frankenstein on Blade Runner.” In Retrofitting “Blade Runner”: Issues in Ridley Scott's “Blade Runner” and Philip K. Dick's “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” edited by Judith B. Kerman, pp. 53-65. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991.

[In the following essay, Desser explores how Blade Runner reworks motifs and mythic themes from John Milton's Paradise Lost and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, focusing particularly on the themes of redemption and transcendence.]

A number of critics have claimed that some...

(The entire section is 6822 words.)

W. Russel Gray (essay date 1991)

SOURCE: Gray, W. Russel. “Entropy, Energy, Empathy: Blade Runner and Detective Fiction.” In Retrofitting “Blade Runner”: Issues in Ridley Scott's “Blade Runner” and Philip K. Dick's “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” edited by Judith B. Kerman, pp. 53-65. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991.

[In the following essay, Gray notes that the plot of Blade Runner finds its origins in the hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1940s, asserting that the film is both energized by the traditions of, and contributes to the revitalization of, the detective genre.]

“You don't get anything for nothing,...

(The entire section is 4741 words.)

T. J. Matheson (essay date fall 1992)

SOURCE: Matheson, T. J. “Triumphant Technology and Minimal Man: The Technological Society, Science Fiction Films, and Ridley Scott's Alien.Extrapolation 33, no. 3 (fall 1992): 215-29.

[In the following essay, Matheson argues that Alien offers a pessimistic vision of man's relationship to modern society in the face of advancing technology.]

When Ridley Scott's film Alien appeared in 1979, critics were generous in their praise of the picture's technical merits but felt that however impressive its machinery might be, the film was less than an artistic or intellectual success. In the main, reviewers agreed with Jeffrey Wells that the film lacked...

(The entire section is 6478 words.)

Peter Wollen (review date November 1992)

SOURCE: Wollen, Peter. “Cinema's Conquistadors.” Sight and Sound 2, no. 7 (November 1992): 21-3.

[In the following review, Wollen characterizes 1492: Conquest of Paradise as a re-evaluation of the myth of Christopher Columbus, portraying Columbus as a visionary maverick and national hero.]

Ridley Scott's film about Columbus, 1492: Conquest of Paradise revolves around the first sight of land after the long voyage. The screen is covered in clouds, which drift slowly away, like gauze curtains, to reveal a lush green tropical landscape, filled with trees, foliage and plants. Later in the film, Columbus recalls this image as one that will stay with him in...

(The entire section is 2728 words.)

Philip Strick (review date November 1992)

SOURCE: Strick, Philip. Review of 1492: Conquest of Paradise, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 2, no. 7 (November 1992): 41-2.

[In the following review, Strick comments that, despite a dull and plodding narrative, the cinematography, soundtrack, set design, and costumes in 1492: Conquest of Paradise are impressive and skillfully constructed.]

[In Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise,] Fernando, son of Christopher Columbus, recalls how his father proved to him that the Earth is round. Convinced on this basis that the riches of the Orient could be reached by sailing West from the Canary Islands, Columbus then sought Church support for his...

(The entire section is 1615 words.)

Richard Alleva (review date 20 November 1992)

SOURCE: Alleva, Richard. “Goodbye, Columbus: Ridley Scott's 1492.Commonweal 119, no. 20 (20 November 1992): 20-1.

[In the following review, Alleva criticizes 1492: Conquest of Paradise as a confused production that lacks a unifying vision of Columbus and his achievements.]

Perhaps it was inevitable. Making a movie about Columbus for this year of all years was bound to unnerve any filmmaker. Yet it's impossible to forgive what Ridley Scott has delivered. 1492: Conquest of Paradise exudes desperation, panic, and the sort of hysterical rhetoric that is born of desperation and panic.

The soundtrack by Vangelis epitomizes the...

(The entire section is 1370 words.)

Joe Abbott (essay date 1993)

SOURCE: Abbott, Joe. “The ‘Monster’ Reconsidered: Blade Runner's Replicant as Romantic Hero.” Extrapolation 34, no. 4 (1993): 340-50.

[In the following essay, Abbott examines Blade Runner and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as two texts that attempt to address the implications of artificial life.]

It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery.

—Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

The “bold question” to which Victor Frankenstein makes reference in the early pages of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is the question of the origin (or...

(The entire section is 4890 words.)

Mark Kermode (review date May 1996)

SOURCE: Kermode, Mark. Review of White Squall, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 6, no. 5 (May 1996): 64.

[In the following review, Kermode describes White Squall as a dramatically flawed hybrid of film genres that is ultimately unsatisfying.]

Connecticut, 1960. Against his father's wishes, Chuck Gieg travels from home to join the crew of the school ship Albatross in Port St. George, Bermuda [in White Squall]. He is joining a group of 13 teenage boys who have enlisted for a character-building cruise under the command of ‘Skipper’ Christopher Sheldon. Early in the voyage, Gill fails to help rescue Chuck from tangled rigging ropes due to...

(The entire section is 938 words.)

Raphael Shargel (review date 22 September 1997)

SOURCE: Shargel, Raphael. “Gender and Genre Bending.” New Leader 80, no. 15 (22 September 1997): 20-1.

[In the following review, Shargel faults G.I. Jane for paying lip-service to a strong female protagonist, while the film's overall tone is exploitative towards women.]

Halfway through G.I. Jane, Master Chief John Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen) interrogates Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore) in a rather unconventional fashion. He ties her hands behind her back, slaps her repeatedly across the face and rams her body through a door. When O'Neil tries to fight back, the Master Chief, infuriated, pummels her with such force that she can hardly stand. Not...

(The entire section is 713 words.)

Robert Ashley (review date November 1997)

SOURCE: Ashley, Robert. Review of G.I. Jane, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 7, no. 11 (November 1997): 42-3.

[In the following mixed review, Ashley observes that Scott's direction expresses ambivalence about the patriotic message in G.I. Jane.]

Lt. Jordan O'Neil works for US Navy intelligence [in G.I. Jane]. Her boyfriend is a high-ranking intelligence officer. Senator Lillian DeHaven is leading a campaign to force the Navy to allow women into their elite combat unit, the Navy SEALS. Needing to find a candidate who can get through the punishing training programme and still look good for PR purposes, DeHaven chooses O'Neil. She agrees and heads for the...

(The entire section is 1035 words.)

Kenneth Turan (review date 5 May 2000)

SOURCE: Turan, Kenneth. “Russell Crowe's Muscular Performance, Stylish Battle Scenes and Rich Atmosphere Help Cut through the Shortcomings of Ridley Scott's Gladiator.Los Angeles Times (5 May 2000): F1.

[In the following review, Turan offers a generally positive assessment of Gladiator, noting that the film spends “too much time on predictable plot twists.”]

Gladiator delivers when it counts—but then and only then. Like an aging athlete who knows how to husband strength and camouflage weaknesses, it makes the most of what it does well and hopes you won't notice its limitations. With someone like Russell Crowe in the starring role, it...

(The entire section is 986 words.)

Leslie Felperin (review date June 2000)

SOURCE: Felperin, Leslie. “Decline and Brawl.” Sight and Sound 10, no. 6 (June 2000): 34-5.

[In the following review, Felperin asserts that Gladiator is Scott's best work to date, observing that the film functions as an allegory that expresses an implicit criticism of the contemporary American mass entertainment culture.]

The Encyclopaedia Britannica imperiously dismisses the Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius as “a historically overrated figure, presiding in a bewildered way over an empire beneath the gilt of which there already lay many a decaying patch.” In Ridley Scott's magnificent new action film Gladiator the patch has become...

(The entire section is 1170 words.)

Brenda Cooper (essay date fall 2000)

SOURCE: Cooper, Brenda. “‘Chick Flicks’ as Feminist Texts: The Appropriation of the Male Gaze in Thelma and Louise.Women's Studies in Communication 23, no. 3 (fall 2000): 277-306.

[In the following essay, Cooper argues that Thelma and Louise effectively undermines traditional Hollywood misogyny by appropriating the cinematic “male gaze” that has been utilized in the past to subjugate, objectify, and trivialize women.]

When Thelma & Louise (Scott, 1991) hit cinemas in the summer of 1991, it was met simultaneously with harsh criticism as well as enthusiastic acclaim by women spectators. In the years since its release, Thelma...

(The entire section is 11976 words.)

Neil McDonald (review date April 2001)

SOURCE: McDonald, Neil. “Dr. Lecter, I Presume.” Quadrant 45, no. 4 (April 2001): 59-62.

[In the following review, McDonald compares the novel Hannibal to Scott's film adaptation, noting that the film achieves a moral and dramatic complexity that is lacking in the novel.]

Filmmakers saving a major writer from betraying his own creation? Unbelievable! Not really, because this is what screenwriters David Mamet and Steve Zaillian and director Ridley Scott have done in Hannibal for Thomas Harris, the author of the original novel.

When the book was published in 1999 director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally—both of whom had won...

(The entire section is 3859 words.)

David Thomson (essay date April 2001)

SOURCE: Thomson, David. “The Riddler Has His Day.” Sight and Sound 11, no. 4 (April 2001): 19-21.

[In the following essay, Thomson discusses Scott's major strengths and weaknesses as a filmmaker, focusing particularly on Hannibal.]

In a recent interview for American television's 60 Minutes, Ridley Scott was about as enthusiastic as his gruff, laconic manner (and advanced age) would allow. He confessed that he was having a tremendous time, better than ever, getting up every morning to make movies. Could there be anything more fun in life? In fact, the man is 61; in effect, he seemed half that age. Is that the secret to carrying on in his very tricky business...

(The entire section is 3356 words.)

Kim Newman (review date April 2001)

SOURCE: Newman, Kim. Review of Hannibal, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 11, no. 4 (April 2001): 48-9.

[In the following review, Newman offers a negative assessment of Hannibal, arguing that the plot is not compelling and the characters are underdeveloped.]

Ten years after the consultations with serial killer Hannibal Lecter that led to triumph over murderer Jame Gumb, FBI agent Clarice Starling is involved with a bungled shoot-out that leaves five dead [in Hannibal]. Paul Krendler, Clarice's long-time enemy in the bureau, gains leverage over her as she is blamed for the operation. Wealthy paedophile Mason Verger, disfigured by Hannibal, is buying...

(The entire section is 1215 words.)

Andrew Stephen (review date 11 February 2002)

SOURCE: Stephen, Andrew. “War Comes Home.” New Statesman 131, no. 4574 (11 February 2002): 22-3.

[In the following review, Stephen criticizes Black Hawk Down for feeding into many dangerous American myths about foreign policy and military intervention.]

Even going to the movies is different here in the US nowadays. Waiting for the main film to begin last Monday, I watched two ads for soon-to-be-released films with gung-ho US militaristic themes. Then followed the silent invocation “God Bless America”, in appropriate colours, flashed up in huge letters on the screen. It reminded me of Fox Television's coverage of the Superbowl the day before: not only was...

(The entire section is 1227 words.)

Manohla Dargis (review date 12 September 2003)

SOURCE: Dargis, Manohla. “A Veteran of Epics Directs Smaller Men.Los Angeles Times (12 September 2003): E14.

[In the following review, Dargis characterizes Matchstick Men as “a minor interlude between Scott's usual major endeavors,” noting that Scott seems more comfortable directing epic-scale productions.]

A self-consciously modest film from an immodestly talented director, Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men comes equipped with a major star (Nicolas Cage), a ripe second banana (Sam Rockwell) and the regulation pretty face (Alison Lohman).

The script was co-written by Ted Griffin, who hatched Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's...

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Further Reading


Coleman, John. Review of Legend, by Ridley Scott. New Statesman 110, no. 2855 (13 December 1985): 30-1.

Coleman dismisses Legend as a “limp” Hollywood fable, noting that the film presents “[n]o coherent world of any kind.”

Corliss, Richard. Review of Legend, by Ridley Scott. Time 127 (12 May 1986): 98.

Corliss criticizes Scott as a “master of artifice,” arguing that Legend “is as simple as a bedtime tale.”

Frost, Linda. “The Decentered Subject of Feminism: Postfeminism and Thelma and Louise.” In Rhetoric in an Antifoundational...

(The entire section is 404 words.)