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Special Edition, DVD Video
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After an astronomer discovers communication emanating from the star Vega, she leads an international team in deciphering it, and travels through space to contact the senders of the message.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 3-FEB-2004
Media Type: DVD
The opening and closing moments of Robert (Forrest Gump) Zemeckis's Contact astonish viewers with the sort of breathtaking conceptual imagery one hardly ever sees in movies these days--each is an expression of the heroine's lifelong quest (both spiritual and scientific) to explore the meaning of human existence through contact with extraterrestrial life. The movie begins by soaring far out into space, then returns dizzyingly to earth until all the stars in the heavens condense into the sparkle in one little girl's eye. It ends with that same girl as an adult (Jodie Foster)--her search having taken her to places beyond her imagination--turning her gaze inward and seeing the universe in a handful of sand. Contact traces the journey between those two visual epiphanies. Based on Carl Sagan's novel, Contact is exceptionally thoughtful and provocative for a big-budget Hollywood science fiction picture, with elements that recall everything from 2001 to The Right Stuff. Foster's solid performance (and some really incredible alien hardware) keep viewers interested, even when the story skips and meanders, or when the halo around the golden locks of rising-star-of-a-different-kind Matthew McConaughey (as the pure-Hollywood-hokum love interest) reaches Milky Way-level wattage. Ambitious, ambiguous, pretentious, unpredictable--Contact is all of these things and more. Much of it remains open to speculation and interpretation, but whatever conclusions one eventually draws, Contact deserves recognition as a rare piece of big-budget studio filmmaking on a personal scale. --Jim Emerson
- Computer animation concepts and tests
- Special effects designs
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Jodie Foster and Jena Malone make Ellie a fully realized, three dimensional character with texture and depth. Matthew McConnaughey delivers the first taste of what he is capable of as a serious actor (what we will later see proof of in A Time To Kill and True Detective). David Morse and William Hurt play, by turns, Ellie's iconic father and father figures without which she would never have had the strength to see things through. William Fichtner leads a cast of wonderful irregulars as Ellie's colleagues and compatriots.
What this movie offers from it's first shot - one of my favorite in ALL of film - is a sense of scale and beauty.
Scale by means of the sheer immensity of creation.
Beauty in the way that all that creation is filled from the macroscopic to the microscopic.
As a young boy, this movie helped me see what kind of a father I would want some day to be. It gave me the phrase often repeated to my own children - "Small moves, Ellie. Small moves." Mr. Sagan and Mr. Zemeckis both grasp the essence of wonder native to the human spirit and weave the fabric of a film that, decades later, still maintains a timeless elegance and essential dignity.
Shooting at Arecibo in Puerto Rico and the Very Large Area in New Mexico lend the film scope and grandeur no soundstage or green screen ever could.
Ellie has become a role model. Life is hard. It takes will and a willingness to meet it both rigidly and openly. The trick is knowing the difference.
William Hurt as Hadden has been a role model of a different type. A reminder not to think flexibly without compromising one's core self, to forge new paths past impossibility, and never accept a thing just because others think it so - things like endings. The importance of playing on one's own terms.
Three generations have been effected by this film in my household. I trust that will extend over time.
There aren't many more compelling questions than "are we alone in the universe?" and that's the subject of Contact. There have been lots of movies and television series that that take the "first contact" theme. Perhaps it resonates so well because it has so many parallels to the time when many times people would meet other people with seemingly magical technology. Trying to not give too much away, I think that's the role of the infamous "machine".
Jody Foster is fabulous as Eleanor Arroway and Matthew McConaughey, William Fichtner and Tom Skerritt all have notable performances. A small but critical role is S.R. Hadden played by John Hurt. The well selected cast of film veterans deliver a performance that holds together very well.
One of the the things that I particularly enjoy are the scenes at the Very Large Array (VLA) near Socorro, New Mexico where I spent a memorable week working on their computer systems in the early 1980's. I can understand why it shows up in TV and Movies (2010 A Space Odyssey, for example). It is a place and purpose that captures my imagination. The measurement of signal strength during these scenes refers to Janksys which related to the full name of the VLA: Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array and obviously the source of the measurement.
At the end of the movie I am always touched by the dedication "For Carl" which is clearly Carl Sagan, a movie co-producer and author of the book that is the basis for the movies. Sadly he died in 1996; the year before the release of the movie. In the movie the Sagan quote "it would be a terrible waste of space" is often repeated.
The story itself is well made. Good pacing and tempo keep things moving along. Production values are pretty good and good use of stock footage of then President Clinton where appropriate for the flow of the movie. It's not a bug-eyed-aliens movie, it's more conceptual and cerebral in nature but I think it does a good job bringing the less geeky viewer along with just a plain good story with all the essential elements.
Not a lot of movies get me to watch them more than once or twice, but this one does. I think by this point it should be obvious that I am a fan of the movies and I'm giving it 5 stars. If you have managed not to see Contact, give it a try and allow a little for the 20 years since its first release. I think you may be glad you did.
What makes this film is the incredible performance of Jodie Foster and the emotionally resonant plot that humanizes her weaknesses as explainable personal tragedies early in her life. The culmination of the long and powerful story is one of the most beautiful and artistically vibrant scenes in any film I've ever seen. Truly, it's moved me to tears. I can count the number of films that have done this on one hand.
I have NO IDEA why this film has received so little recognition, whether on top all-time Sci-Fi films or top movies in general. The great Carl Sagan's brilliant story is brought to life in a semi-realistic portrayal of what would happen if a message from an alien species was ever received in modern times.