Contact (1997)


Contact Movie Review

Contact is a science fiction drama movie released in 1997, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jodie Foster. It is a very good film and one of the best science fiction films of the decade and one of the most underrated.

The story is amazing. It is the best thing about Contact without a doubt. It follows Ellie played by Foster, a woman who dedicated her entire life to finding extraterrestrial life. After some day receiving the signal from the star system of Vega, she is to go to the planet and meet the race as a representative of the Earth. It is a plot that is intriguing and entertaining from start to finish. It is so riveting that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. But that is not to say that it is filled with action. Just the opposite as it is so realistic in approach and so subtle and smart that I enjoyed it on an intellectual level along with the visual experience of course. I love how the movie is tense and this is a sci-fi in the vein of Close Encounters of the Third Act’ meaning that more than two thirds of the movie is just build-up with a lot of tension and excitement that can be felt in the air.

The first half is great, but one thing I was not a big fan of and that is the overly emotional tone of the beginning. It was in my opinion very cliched to have her father killed and their relationship, while warm, is still a typical heartwarming and inspirational father-daughter relationship that is so common for Hollywood films. But I still like that aspect to some extent as it lends itself to much needed character development and emotional investment. I love the whole middle of the movie which is probably the strongest with a lot of exciting and thrilling moments. But the ending is simply remarkable not only because it is so powerful in imagery, emotion and tone, but also because it is the opposite of sensational, it’s so grounded and quite dramatic. I like the inclusion of courtroom-drama elements to it, but I would have gone with less religious themes as they overtook the movie too much in my opinion.

I like the characters, I do not love them, but they are solid. Palmer Joss is a typical McConaughey character who I am not a fan of as that is usually a guy full of himself and too sexually charged. Here he is no different than that, but at least his relationship with the protagonist is very well depicted with some quite compelling drama thrown in there. All of the other characters are forgettable and just serve their purpose, but Dr. Ellie is of course excellent as she is realistically portrayed and her attitude towards space and also the relationship between her father and Joss are great. And I overall liked her, even if she was too cocky at times.

I loved Jodie Foster in this role. It was weird to see her in a genre film but she was in ‘Elysium’ a decade or so later so this did not remain her only science fiction role. But she is great, very likable and professional in her role. She definitely gave a great performance bringing the realism and the heart of the character perfectly. As for the rest of the actors, they are forgettable as their characters are.

The directing from Zemeckis is good here and this is unfortunately his last good film along with ‘Cast Away‘. The photography is fine with some stunning imagery. And I like the design of the ship as well as the scene on another planet. It was so miraculous and a visual feast meant to be seen on the big screen. The effects in my opinion aged like fine wine as they are so good here. I also have to mention the score. It is incredible, so beautiful and moving and especially in later parts and that definitely lifted the whole movie up a notch. The script is very professional and the pacing is polished with never a dull moment and with slow pace that never went full speed which I again really appreciated. The tone also I felt was dealt with professionally, at times warm, at times dramatic, but always powerful in approach and very realistic. The emphasis is more on science than on fiction and that I really appreciated. Only the beginning should have been less emotional. Contact is also very unpredictable and imaginative and it is fueled with some solid dialogue in there.

There are some big flaws regarding this movie which did not take away from my enjoyment of it as much, but I still found them annoying. As I mentioned before, it is too emotional and typical in the beginning, almost cheesy. The religious aspect was too much present later on. But that is not the problem as it is an intriguing and definitely realistic part of this story, but the problem is how it is handled which is too on the nose in my opinion and lacking the subtlety whatsoever. The other thing that bothered me is the question the movie poses which is why these aliens would send us a construction plan for the ship where they just could have come to Earth themselves. But maybe they did not deem humans as important and maybe they wanted to take smaller steps, which can be seen in the conversation Ellie has with them in the end. It can be explained, but it is still a little too convenient. I also disliked how it was too much influenced by 2001′. The whole wormhole scene as well as that sequence on the planet are copied from Clarke’s novel and film which I did not like. It is good and works for the film, but it should have been more original in that regard. But still, although those problems are big, nonetheless Contact is a very good film that is never ruined by those questionable choices.

With spectacular score, terrific effects for the time, a wonderfully grounded approach, perfect pacing, epic scope and a plot that is not only powerful but also always engaging, smart and gripping, Contact has its flaws mainly some sequences that are too much influenced by ‘2001’, the religious aspects are not subtle at all and the beginning pulled too much at the heartstrings, but it is still a very good science fiction movie that manages to be clever and entertaining at the same time.

My Rating – 4

Posted in 1990s, 1997, Drama, FILM DECADES, MOVIE REVIEWS, Science Fiction and tagged , , , , .

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