Past Movie Review: Contact

The movie Contact was inspired many years ago by the book Contact which was written by the late Carl Sagan. The premise of the book and the entire movie that came out in 1997 was that if there is no other life in the Universe than this would be a “great waste of space”. Clearly there is no arguing that logic, but the real issue is, if there is life, isn’t it equally as likely that it is so many millions of light years away, that it would be impossible for any alien lifeforce to travel that far or even find us, given that the Universe is so vast and traveling at the speed of light or greater than the speed of light is not possible.

Jodie Foster is the star of Contact in arguably one of her best roles. I thought that the science behind this movie was great to see, with the huge array telescopes that monitor all signals coming from space, and a series of complex computer software programs that are able to figure out where the signal is coming from and capture it so it can be analyzed. There are scenes in this movie after a message has been received that include some of the best science I have ever seen any science fiction movie and what follows is even better, where the message is figured out and a massive machine for interstellar travel is built from a message that is embedded in a television signal from the 1936 Olympics, which was held in Berlin Germany. The spacecraft and concept behind it that was built from the alien message was fantastic and one of the best ideas I have ever seen for space travel.

I also liked and strongly related to the real-life work backstabbing and credit taking that happens in this film, where Jodie Foster’s boss, played by Tom Skerrit, who was dead set against Foster’s career of listening for life in outer space only to later take full credit for the discovery and steps on all of Foster’s responses at every meeting with Government officials who rush to undermine her project. Matthew McConaughey plays of all things a member of the clergy and provides the religious perspective on aliens visiting from outer space, and James Woods does a great job playing the evil Government representative, who does everything he can to sabotage this amazing contact with aliens.

Where this movie fails, although not completely is at the very end where I thought that Foster’s encounter with some sort of alien presence was not a satisfactory or logical conclusion to what was a great story with great special effects up to that point. The shame of the ending scene is that it really doesn’t make any sense, given the great science before this scene, which is why the ending does not work. The only upside of the ending is that it does make you think about what could be out there and then makes you think about what was the real point of this whole story in the first place.

Despite this unsatisfactory ending, I have always thought that Contact is one of the best science fiction films ever produced and should be seen by everyone, whether or not you believe in extraterrestrial life. This movie is also expertly directed by Robert Zemeckis.

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