DIRECTED BY: Robert Zemeckis
WRITTEN BY: James V. Hart & Michael Goldenberg (screenplay); Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan (story); Based on a novel by Carl Sagan
PEW PEW: Nope.
CAT FOOD: This film is more stunning an example of pure cat food than any other I can think of in this genre. It questions and solidifies mankind’s unity through loneliness, and presents the most beautiful example of why it’s so important for those who have faith and those who seek facts to tolerate one another.
Before I started typing this, I decided that it should be my goal to make this one of my shorter reviews. So I’m really, really gonna try to make this as absolutely short as possible. Contact is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. They should make Contact mandatory viewing for public school students. Men and women of science and men and women of faith alike should see Contact and hear the brilliant message it has to say to Earth’s people.
After a very artistic, anti-narrative introduction, we are introduced to a little girl named Ellie Arroway who is gifted with a tremendous imagination for science and manifests it early with an interest in radio communication. Her goal, initially, is to contact regions of the world which are further and further from her own, guided and encouraged by her loving widowered father.
We fast forward several years and learn that her father died when she was nine years old and Ellie has had to grow up on her own, embracing her love of science to get by. It has become her mission to listen for and make contact with alien life.
The first act of the movie sees us following Ellie on her frustrating career path as people question her, belittle her, and cut her financial backing. The second act sees her mission a success, as she picks up a transmission sent by alien life from the distant Vega. The final act documents her mission to make actual contact with the beings themselves.
I realise that I’m usually in the business of condemning movies that offer little entertainment value, and that entertaining isn’t exactly a word I would use to describe Contact. The movie is a drama, and as such, there is little in the way of comedy or fun. The film is deep and heavy as hell, and it gives the illusion that it is plodding along with nothing truly exciting happening. The best I can put it is that Contact is one of the most amazingly compelling films I have ever seen.
Before I forget, I must note the brilliant ensemble cast that includes Jodie Foster in the lead, Matthew McConaughey in the supporting role, and David Morse, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, and James Woods in other major roles. The film is also a who’s who of celebrity faces from the era. Oh yeah, and William Fichter isn’t an evil son of a bitch for once.
The narrative is fascinating and stirring. While I felt several times I was going to knock someone out if it nothing ended up happening by the end of the movie, the film is not boring and it is worth the bit of patience the plot requires to develop properly. While some of the conversations and much of the movie seems quite scientifically biased, this is a mandatory part of character development that is seriously important to the film’s stunning conclusion.
The final thing I have to do here is comment on the most important thing about Contact: its message. As a man of faith, I felt myself growing annoyed through most of the film, as religion is depicted as a kind of evil for a good chunk of it. Like, imagine Contact is a Spike Lee movie and religion is a white character. I’ll fully admit that I couldn’t help but feel that the film was quite biased at first, and that it clearly favoured science over religion. As a religious person, I took offense to how every religious person in the film was depicted as being narrow-minded and delusional.
I was knocked back several paces when I realised that there is no bias here, and that eventually, science is depicted as being just the same. Both sides get to falter. Both sides get to triumph. Eventually, the film explains why there should be no sides in mankind’s quest for truth.
If you are religious and watching the film, have patience, there is a huge 180 that happens in the film and science gets it thrown right back. If you’re patient enough, you will eventually see religion depicted as a beautiful thing that is no less human than the scientific quest for facts. As I am myself a Bahá’í, I believe that science and religion should walk hand-in-hand and this film goes a long way to explaining why we should allow eachother our beliefs and work together in the struggle against, among other things, isolation.
For the incredibly tolerant and open-minded folks it took to put together a picture that presents the virtues of both science and religion, and their mutual importance to a race that ultimately feels just as isolated from the great big “whatever” that surrounds it as the main character Ellie is from the loved ones she lost growing up, I’m giving this picture an honourary six stars out of a possible five.
An impossibly high rating for an impossibly great concept.