“Contact” is a realistic look at how man’s first contact with aliens might actually occur. It is easy to draw comparisons to the recent hit “Arrival” but they are different enough that they can be treated as their own entities. One of the main factors that maintains the realism is the lack of spaceships. We all love “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” but the spaceships put the fiction is science fiction. Moreover, this film focuses more on the debate of science-vs-religion than it does the actual aliens. I didn’t appreciate the blatant anti-religious sentiments, nor were they necessary. I understand that the film is trying to make a statement about the struggle for science and religion to coexist but it clearly favors science and portrays religion as a disillusioned, extremist belief. The casting is interesting. I would never picture Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in the same film but they work well together. I don't know if there is a reason for Foster's constant throat clearing (perhaps some line that I missed about the dust of New Mexico bothering her allergies?) but it is very distracting. James Woods plays the snotty Congressional investigator well and John Hurt brings an interesting dynamic to his character, but overall the acting is nothing special. Something that is special is the work of the special effects team. One of the best moments of the film is the payoff when we get to see the machine and the editing team did a great job of using news footage to explain how the machine works. Director Robert Zemeckis harnesses his inner-Kubrick for the wormhole sequence and interprets space travel in a surrealist way that looks so fantastic that we have to believe it. I wish that there was more resolution at the end but it is appropriate for leaving things open-ended. “Contact” was decades in the making for Warner Brothers and while it science-vs-religion theme gets in the way of the story, it still delivers during the final 20 minutes of the film.
[Pictured: The setting it pretty cool, I just wish that the anti-religious statements didn’t get in the way]