When you look up in the sky late at night, do you ever have the feeling that another being is doing the same thing light years away? How could there be so many stars and no other life than just us? It would be a terrible waste of space wouldn’t it?
Contact looks at these questions and more. Based on the Carl Sagan book by the same name, Contact follows the story of a radio astronomer, Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster). Since she was a kid, she has been interested in radio, and using the radio to find other people, or peoples. Arroway starts her professional career at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, it is here where she meets Joss (Matthew McConaughey), a biblical man, who does not believe in technology. Arroway is working on the SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) project. And, thew work is long and dry. Long and dry enough for the head of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Drumlin (Tom Skerritt), to cut their funding.
Arroway then, with the help of her coworkers, get private funding to do research in New Mexico. The funding comes from an eccentric rich man, Hadden (John Hurt). And after two years of searching, they have yet to turn something up. So, yet again, Drumlin steps in and wants the project to be shutdown, because the radio telescopes could be used for more “practical” projects. But, before the project is cancelled, Arroway and team get The Message from a star named Vega.
All of that build up takes place in the slow introductory forty minutes. From there, director, Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future series), tries to explore the effect The Message has on science and religion. And how the two are in conflict with each other. It is here that the movie picks up the pace, but only by a little. We see Arroway go through letdown after letdown. The payoff for all of these letdowns, slow intro, and religious/science exploration, is good but not as satisfying as can be.
The opening sequence sets the pace for the movie, and has to be seen it’s an incredible sequence.
Worth mentioning is John Hurt as the eccentric man, Hadden. Hurt gives a, short, but brilliant performance. His character is, for me, one of the most memorable characters in the movies of summer 1997. Jodie Foster gives a solid performance, as usual. The special effects, although never overshadowing the characters and story, are incredible. The opening sequence, close to the end sequence, and machine are unbeatable. I’ve not finished reading the book, but so far the movie sticks pretty much to the book. And this could be accounted for because of Sagan and his wife producing the film.
I have only a few complaints. The movie is just a bit on the long side, running around two and half-hours. Zemeckis uses the same sort of T.V. type inserts as Forrest Gump, but there seems to be an over use of it in Contact. Sometimes it seems that he used T.V. footage just to give the movie a documentary feel. The score from Alan Silvestri is easily forgettable.
Though I have some complaints, Contact is a wonderful movie. It is by far one of the best sci-fi films to be released lately. And being the summer film season, it is a film unlike most other summer films, intelligent. I highly recommend Contact.
“You wanna go for a ride?” - Hadden.