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An Awful Waste Of Space

bkoganbing19 January 2015

Although Jodie Foster has won two Oscars in her career I think her best work was done in Contact, a film where the only recognition it received was a nomination for Best Sound. She also never did a more serious film about a more serious topic. Are we in fact the only life there is in this vast universe and how do we find out.

As a scientist, something she wanted to be all her life, Foster is determined to get answers in the best way she knows, build the biggest radio telescope there is and throw out a few signals. Someone out in the great beyond will answer. Foster gets an answer.

What I love about Contact is that the gamut of human reactions to the possibility of life is dealt with in this film. It ranges from the multi-billionaire who wants his own life extended John Hurt, the geopolitician who is interested in power James Woods, the sincerely religious men of faith who want to see how God fits into the scheme of things Matthew McConaughey, and even the religious terrorist who fears that a mountain of man made dogma that he's based his life on will be washed away Jake Busey. Busey's part is extremely relevant, we have way too many of those in the world and strategically placed they can cause catastrophe.

Foster gets a blueprint for a space time travel machine, warp drive the likes of which James T. Kirk only wished he had. It goes horribly wrong the first time, Foster takes it herself for a second try.

Mention should also go to David Morse who plays Foster's father, first in scenes with young Jena Malone who was a science prodigy as a kid and later Foster during her 'journey' gets to talk to Morse again. Was it real or a hallucination. His scenes are the highlight of the film for me.

Contact takes no sides in the end, it simply takes the position that in terms of the universe humankind is taking baby steps. If we are really the only life in the universe it seems like an awful waste of space.

The special effects are fine, the sound was considered Academy worthy. So much more of Contact is, most especially the performances of Jodie Foster and her supporting cast.

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Could have been great

Leofwine_draca5 December 2011

Disappointing 'search for alien life' type film that starts off well – the first hour or so is focused, factual and has some fine actors contributing some decent character work – before it falls apart, becoming mired in now-dated special effects work and an overwhelming veneer of awe/sentimentality that's spoilt many a Hollywood blockbuster (and, indeed, a great number of the films made by director Robert Zemeckis).

Jodie Foster is fine to begin with as the dedicated pioneer, desperate to discover the truth about extraterrestrial life; when she's dealing with officious bigwigs, radio equipment and wide open vistas of land, you thoroughly believe in both her and her cause. Later, when she's undergoing a spaced-out journey to the beyond and acting in front of a green screen, she's way out of her comfort zone and her acting suffers accordingly. Along the way, she's supported by a great number of strong performances – to name but a few David Morse, Tom Skerritt, James Woods, John Hurt, William Fichtner and Jake Busey – but by the time the long-winded tale reaches its ultimate conclusion, I was long past caring.

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Big ideas

SnoopyStyle22 August 2015

Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) starts work for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Her mother died in childbirth and her dad died when she was a child. Kent (William Fichtner) is a blind researcher. Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey) is a religious writer who becomes her romantic partner. David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt) is the bottom-line head at the observatory who shuts her down. Four years later, she is still the outcast as funding and facilities dry up. Then she finds an extraterrestrial signal. Drumlin and NSA adviser Michael Kitz (James Woods) take over. Hadden (John Hurt) is an eccentric tycoon who has been supporting her.

It's a brainier science fiction. The first half is exciting in the non-action way. It is smart. It tries to add in some action but it is unable to transition. It may be better not to transition. Also Robert Zemeckis overdoes the space travel and the other world. The religious debate takes up too much space and gets a bit clunky. The logic of hiding such a massive construction is highly questionable. The first half rivals any of the best sci-fi and the second half isn't bad either.

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It Works at Many Levels

Hitchcoc18 May 1999

I enjoyed the hopefulness of this movie--the metaphysical angle. "2001: A Space Odyssey" will always be my favorite science fiction film because it took the stance that there are layers in our evolutionary process--the temporary life that Arthur C. Clarke describes in "Childhood's End"--that leads to a passing of what we would call "soul" for lack of a better word. "Contact" renews this. If one looks at the issues of the universe--we are as likely to go inward as outward. Quantum physics teaches us that uncertainties are as likely as certainties. Otherwise, why build the machine? Does it merely offer us movement into the endless void, or does it bring us to new awakenings? I hope that what we are is destined for better things than a frozen sphere, floating in space for tens of billions of years.

Like so many movies, this one forces us to take its premise on faith--there are so many issues unresolved--and the whole thing is so cynical. But it forces us to look at issues of self and the future--that makes it worth our time. And it doesn't necessarily have to do with conventional religion.

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Science versus Faith, in One of the Greatest Sci-Fi of the Cinema Industry

claudio_carvalho1 January 2013

The skeptical scientist Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) researches extraterrestrial life with her team in Puerto Rico. When David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt) shuts-down the project, Ellie seeks for private funds to reopen her research in New Mexico. An anonymous millionaire provides the necessary funds and Ellie proceeds with her work.

Four years later, she is contacted by alien forms from Vega that send a coded message. The millionaire S.R. Hadden (John Hurt) that is financing the research deciphers the message and gives to Ellie the design of an intriguing machine. Ellie concludes that the equipment might be to transport a passenger to Vega. Now she needs to convince a commission formed by military, politicians, scientists and religious leaders that she is the best candidate for the journey.

"Contact" is one of the greatest sci-fi of the cinema industry. In my opinion, "Contact" and "Gattaca" are the two last best sci-fi produced by the cinema, and coincidentally they are both from 1997. "Contact" presents a great discussion between science and faith, with extraordinary quotes. My favorite is when Ellie asks her father if he believes that there are people in other planets and he answers: "But I guess I'd say if it is just us... seems like an awful waste of space. I saw "Contact" for the last time on 13 May 2000 on DVD and I have just watched it again on Blu-Ray. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Contato" ("Contact")

Bote: On 13 May 2000 I saw this film.

On 22 Aug 2016, I saw this film again.

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Very interesting and worthy but, my god, but it is full of itself!

bob the moo3 February 2004

Since childhood, Ellie Arroway has been interested in space and radio signals, spurred on by the death of her parents early in life. As an adult she is a scientist who listens to space for signals from the stars, however her programme has it's funding cut and she finds herself looking for private funding. Four years after securing such funding, she discovers a mathematical signal from space. As the Government gets involved the signal reveals more information - thousands of pages of mechanical schematics. As the design is built, the world reacts to news of alien life.

It is hard to complain about a film that tries to be an intelligent sci-fi at a time when the genre reaped greater box office rewards if you were shooting them like Independence Day. It is a shame then, that the film doesn't totally work as a whole, even if it has moments that are thought provoking, exciting or interesting. The plot is great in essence, however it bogs itself down with too much in the way or spiritual philosophising and emotional back story that, while being an OK idea, just complicates the issue unnecessarily. The essential questions of who and why are lost in bigger debates that the script simply can't cope with - turning some discussions into weird pillow talk between Ellie and Joss!

What it does do well is capture the fight between religion and science in this area - both come off equally well and it was well done that the film didn't slant too much in favour of either. The politics and religious zealotry is given a bit of a pushing - but the good thing is; it never actually felt unlikely! In fact, if anything, the project being a multinational project and scientis given a reasonably public free hand is more fiction that some elements here. The film opens very well with a great pull back into space, where you really feel the vastness of space, and ends with a visually impressive scene that would have had much more impact if it had just lost the whole emotional back story connection (regardless of `to make you comfortable' reasons). Between these two moments the film generally keeps things moving with the sense of discovery, but it does regularly get bogged down and it needs a terrorist to add some action - we could easily have condensed or lost a good 20 minutes of this film and things would have been better for it.

The cast is quite deep but they don't all do well. Foster is very good I felt, her character is developed reasonably well for a sci-fi and her performance is good. McConaughey is less fortunate, his character is a bit of a mystery to me and the early scenes with him are pointless apart from setting him up for later. Morse is lumbered with a horrid two-part role, neither of which is very good. However the support cast is good and includes such actors as Woods, Fichtner, Skerritt (who is surprisingly welcoming of the aliens all things considered!), Lowe, Bassett, Busey, Hurt and Bill Clinton as himself!

Overall this is a good film despite being weighed down a script too full of sentiment, back story and unclear philosophising. The essence is good and it has a basic good story, start and ending. I enjoyed it and have seen it more than once but it is remiss of me not to admit that it easily could have been tighter, smarter and more satisfying.

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"The universe is a pretty big place."

classicsoncall29 May 2018

Warning: Spoilers

I don't doubt that someday, probably not during my lifetime, but someday, we will eventually make contact with beings from a planet or universe beyond our own. I do subscribe to the belief that out of all the infinite and limitless yada, yada, yada, that there's some kind of intelligence out there. However I don't think it will occur via a captured video transmission of Hitler opening the 1936 Olympics. Just a little of my own input on that.

I didn't expect this movie to take the tack that it did with such a strong religion versus science undercurrent. It was prevalent throughout and was the basis on which Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) was disqualified from taking part in the original 'Machine' mission; she didn't believe in God. A couple decades down the road from when this picture was made, her position probably would have made her a most likely candidate. I don't know if there's a place for faith to work hand in hand with science, but if one believes in a God as a Supreme Being, there's probably some leeway to acknowledge both disciplines.

The film had sort of a Twilight Zone type ending when one of the NASA administrators stated that Ellie's video recording on her ride through the wormholes had eighteen hours of static. Though the point is made with the viewer for a bit of an ironic twist, apparently Dr. Arroway wasn't told about it, at least not the way the film implied. That seemed to be a gross deception, but oddly supports the fact that she received even more additional funding to carry on her SETI research, even while most of her scientific testimony seemed to be disregarded. The dichotomy there bothered me.

I was curious about the use of Bill Clinton's image in the story, commenting on the Vega discovery. Shortly after the movie's release, the Clinton White House complained about the use of a taped news conference from 1996 where he was talking about a rock that was believed to have come from Mars. Though the footage was obviously used apart from it's original context, the matter went no further and the film was not re-edited to remove the questionable scene. Knowing now what we do about the Clinton's obsessive regard for money, it's possible that the reason the President was so upset was because he wasn't paid to appear in the movie.

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Decent Science Fiction

gavin694214 April 2015

Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of intelligent aliens, who send plans for a mysterious machine.

Right off the bat, the film opens with Jena Malone, who was not known before "Donnie Darko". She has really gone on to bigger and better things (including "The Hunger Games") and folks may want to check this out.

The cast in general is pretty impressive, and has at least ten faces that we always like to see. Gary Busey? Check. Matthew McConaughey? Check. James Woods? Check.

The release of "Contact" was publicized by controversies from the Clinton administration and CNN, as well as individual lawsuits from George Miller and Francis Ford Coppola. These are all interesting stories in themselves. The White House was not pleased with how footage was used, and can you blame them? It really looks like the speech was intended for this film.

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If we really could make contact with another life form...

lee_eisenberg21 October 2005

Robert Zemeckis' "Contact" - from a book by Carl Sagan - explores the possibility of humans making contact with aliens, and how people react. Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) has always believed that there was life out there somewhere, and one day gets proof of it. The challenge comes in how she will convince her superiors of this, and how various people are going to respond. What ensues is beyond impressive; this isn't just a special effects fest, but a look into how we as humans see things (and see each other). The movie's greatness owes to Zemeckis' top-notch direction, and great support from Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett, and James Woods (and even some footage of then-Pres. Clinton). This is one movie that won't disappoint you.

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jboothmillard11 May 2007

Warning: Spoilers

There are many people that say this is a crap film, including South Park who revealed the plot twist, I can agree it is not fantastic, but it is still an interesting film from director Robert Zemeckis (The Back to the Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump). The film starts off with young Ellie (Donnie Darko's Jena Malone) and her Dad Theodore "Ted" Arroway (The Green Mile's David Morse) having their fun astronomy chats, until his death. Years later, Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway (Golden Globe nominated Jodie Foster) is still a free thinking radio astronomer who has got permission to build huge radio satellites, and three years later are built and in use. One day, Ellie receives an unknown radio signal broadcast from deep space. When she and her fellow scientists are able to decipher the Message, they discover detailed instructions for building a mysterious Machine. This machine looks like a transportation device, with circling rings. The first attempt goes wrong because of a guy with a bomb on him, but they find another somewhere in China. When Ellie volunteers herself to go through with it, and the countdown ends, she is transported through a number of wormholes, and sees galaxies and solar systems, till she ends up on a beach meeting her "alien" Dad. When she gets back, they believe that she never went through and that she just dropped, who knows? Also starring Edtv's Matthew McConaughey as Palmer Joss, Alien's Tom Skerritt as Dr. David Drumlin, Boyz n the Hood's Angela Bassett as Rachel Constantine, Alien's John Hurt as S.R. Hadden, Rob Lowe as Richard Rank, Prison Break's William Fichtner as Kent, James Woods as Michael Kitz, Larry King, Jay Leno, Starship Troopers' Jake Busey as Joseph, and archive footage from The Spice Girls, Neil Armstrong, Bill Clinton and an unexplained Adolf Hitler. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Sound. Worth watching, at least once!

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Where Angels Don't Fear to Tread.

rmax30482319 April 2007

Warning: Spoilers

The film, which isn't a bad one, is so packed with ideas that I'm going to skip the probably familiar plot and just make a few comments. Otherwise we're going to run out of space.

What kind of names are we dealing with here? Is it Carl Sagan's idea of goyim naches that WASP parents go about giving their little baby boys and girls names like "Palmer Joss"? And "Ellie ARROWAY"? I have it on good authority -- just having made it up -- that in the entire four-million-year history of the human race, nobody has EVER been named Palmer Joss or Ellie Arroway!

The film is about a government project that is shut down to cut funds for non-utilitarian research. When it's privately funded, Foster takes over. When they get results, the government bureaucracy arrogantly moves in again, with James Woods muttering darkly about "militarization" of the program. Now "military" is a dirty word in this context. We've already seen bulky generals sporting lots of stars. We've seen armed men diffuse throughout the SETI station when the news of the signal gets out. Playing the militarization card is a cheap shot at a stereotyped and convenient target. (Yet it's impossible to imagine its not happening.)

One-dimensional characters. Foster = lonely, breathlessly idealistic scientist. McCaughnehy = New Age soul looking for theological "meanings" behind events. John Hurt = sinister-looking Howard-Hughes billionaire operating underground. (My supporting player in the cult hit, "From the Hip.") James Woods = obstacle in Foster's life space designed only to object to everything she wants to do, for political reasons. Tom Skerrit = manipulative, ambitious, egocentric bureaucrat whose name ("Drumlin") means a small hill. President Clinton, Forrest-Gumped into the movie, is bland and speaks in generalities so nebulous that not even Vegans could guess what the hell he's getting at. But this is the way a politician speaks, and he's believable. I even believed Clinton when he said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Of course his definition of "sexual relations" may be a little ideosyncratic, like mine. Mine involves handcuffs and fettucine.

Jodie Foster, as Ellie Arroway, whom most people address as "Doctor" but whom a simian politician (Rob Lowe) calls "Miss." The selection committee asks her, as one of the candidates for interplanetary travel, "Do you believe in God?", and she comes up with some bumbling response about trusting data. Why did she bother to tell the truth? It never stopped our astronauts, who lied blithely about believing in God and going to church regularly. Anyway she could have copped out with some baloney about, yes, she believed in a kind of God like Spinoza's, who expressed himself or herself in physical laws. By the way, the interrogator who says that 95 percent of the world's people believe in a Supreme Being is full of malarkey. Using E. B. Tylor's "minimal definition of religion," a belief in supernatural spirits, we can say that all cultures have a religion, but not all of them have what we would recognize as a Supreme Being. Does Buddhism have a Supreme Being? What's He like? Is Zero a God? The movie raises the question of what would happen if two cultures with very different values came into contact with one another. It's an interesting question. As Arnold Toynbee has observed, it's happened before, when European adventurers first began landing on the soil of the New World. Those settlers devoutly believed in both God and Gold, to the extent that they could distinguish between them. We can at least hope for better results when we go to Vega.

Jodie Foster is the central figure of course. Her features are sharp and sleek like a shark's so they are almost a little scary, but her talent is such that she's able to project a full range of emotions, both blatant and subtle, and the viewer is able to make contact with her.

One final thought. After watching the expectable computer-generated climactic special effects, the thought came to me unbidden that no power on earth could get me to set foot on that contraption.

I miss Carl Sagan a lot. He was a genuinely nice guy who had the grace and good sense not to drop into my comprehensive exams when they were in fact open to any member of the faculty. His enthusiasm for the objects of his study were catching, in the way the flu is catching. Billions and billions of moons and galaxies. I hope he's now at home somewhere among them.

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What would we do if contacted by an extra-terrestrial intelligence?

Tweekums20 November 2016

Warning: Spoilers

From a young age Eleanor Arroway was fascinated by science and questioned whether we are alone in the universe; as an adult she is probing the depths of the universe hoping to find a sign that there is intelligent life out there. It isn't popular work and a lot of people would be happy to see her 'frivolous' project ended. She manages to get independent funding from the somewhat eccentric S. R. Hadden but even then it looks as if the project will get cancelled as permission to use a government owned facility is withdrawn. Then she discovers a signal coming from Vega, 24 light years away, it consists of a series of prime numbers and rather disturbingly footage of the opening of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin… thankfully it turns out that this was the earliest TV signal of enough power to be received. Mixed in with the signal are a series of documents which when decoded give the schematics to a machine that it is speculated may transport a single person to Vega. By now politics is well into play as well as religion as some believe the project is an affront to their faith. As the project nears its conclusion the question of who should be Earth's representative must be answered and many object to Arroway being selected because of her lack of religious belief.

Movies about aliens contacting us usually turn into alien invasions or at the very least as much about the aliens as humanity; this is different as it is almost entirely about what humanities reaction would be. That reaction is believably varied; in such circumstances it is likely that some would be optimistic and others fearful. As the story progresses there is some slightly unnecessary drama but that does at least serve to put Arroway in the 'pilot's seat' for the ultimate ride. Jodie Foster goes a great job as Arroway and the rest of the cast, which includes plenty of familiar faces, is impressive too. The special effects are pretty impressive; this includes both the sci-fi elements and the way archive footage of President Clinton was used to make it look as though he was talking about the issues in the film. Overall I rather enjoyed this and would recommend it to fans of 'hard' sci-fi.

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Contact vs Interstellar.

BA_Harrison16 March 2016

Deep space exploration, theology versus science, extraterrestrial contact, a central father-daughter relationship: there are a lots of similarities between Christopher Nolan's recent hit Interstellar and Robert Zemeckis' Contact; hell… they even share the same star in Matthew McConaughey. There is, however, one massive difference between the two films: Contact is a genuinely great film, while Interstellar is merely entertaining in a 'did they really just do that?' kind of way (I often wonder if Nolan was having a laugh at the audience's expense).

Obviously, Interstellar boasts state-of-the-art CGI, meaning that it trumps the rather dated looking Contact in terms of jaw-dropping visuals, but with an intelligent script based on the work of Carl Sagan, a terrific central performance from Jodie Foster, and a superb supporting cast that includes James Woods, Jake Busey, Tom Skerritt and John Hurt, Zemeckis' film is the clear winner. Thought provoking and life affirming, Contact leaves the viewer with a genuine sense of awe and wonder; Interstellar, on the other hand, leaves one impressed with the current state of special effects, but pondering more than a few awkward questions regarding the plot (that tidal wave gets me every time, and don't even get me started on the intergalactic bookshelf).

8.5 out of 10, rounded up to 9 for IMDb.

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"Encyclopedia Galactica"

moonspinner5525 February 2008

Renegade scientist (played by a surprisingly willowy and womanly Jodie Foster), who has harbored an obsession with frequencies and contacting parts unknown since she was nine, nearly has her latest scientific funding pulled from her team's work in New Mexico when, after four years, they haven't any proof that life lies outside of our solar system; at that moment, the combative doctor receives first an audio, then a visual signal from a distant planet--and tangles in Washington bureaucracy for the first time. Robert Zemeckis ably directs this film-version of Carl Sagan's book, which features the usual quotient of naysayers, ego-mongers and political bastards (not to mention Matthew McConaughey as a fallen seminarian-turned-theologian and bestselling author!). The film begins so beautifully, with a magical God's eye view of the galaxy, that hope for the picture runs high for the first thirty minutes or so. After that, the narrative becomes quickly entangled in its own red tape, and one has to wade through a lot of scientific data, political bullying, and faux news-clips from CNN before the emotional final chapter. Zemeckis makes an early mistake of mixing movie fiction with real-life players, and his film is uncomfortably stamped with something of a 'cheese factor' after pointless and dated visits from Larry King (who was in on it) and President Bill Clinton (who wasn't). It all leads up to a mind-bending exploration into space for Foster, yet what she finds in the untapped fabric of the universe may strike some as facile and unfulfilling. Certainly the film's slick, savvy production and marvelous visual effects cannot be faulted, and Foster does her usual passionate work. **1/2 from ****

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the happening

dbdumonteil30 October 2003

Possible Spoilers...

This new variation of the extra-terrestrial life (which isn't very far from "Close encounters of the third kind" (1977) gives a naive but really pleasant and charming movie. It is smartly directed by Robert Zemeckis who knows how to sustain the spectator's interest thanks to a story that becomes thrilling and fascinating in its design and it contains several odd details or sequences. Even if the movie contains a few faults (characteristic of Hollywood blockbusters) like for instance the love affair between Foster and Matthew McConaughey, its main advantage is definitely the talented Jodie Foster.

Another fault which is more serious is about the conclusion of the movie. Indeed, it turns out to be a little disappointing because too childish.

This said, you are entitled to prefer "Contact" to the conceited "Independence Day" (1996) or the whacky "Mars Attacks" (1996).

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Sometimes boring but also sometimes fascinating

Quinoa19846 April 2001

Contact has it's moments when you feel like you just might fall asleep (and some might feel a bit of anger due to it's anti-climax type of climax), it is also pretty well made and has some good wonder to it. Jodie Foster stars as a woman who has been looking for life out in space for most of her life with radio signals, until finally, she hears one coming in. That starts a chain that leads up to the creation of a spaceship sent by the signal and so on, and so forth. A lesson in faith, si-fi, and how we feel going into 18 hours of darkness (so to speak). Based on the book by Carl Sagan. Best scene though, the scene with the whole lot of crazies in celebration over the sending of the signal. B+

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Almost Heaven, Pensacola

wes-connors22 August 2011

Tragedy during a meteor shower in her childhood helps shape the character of atheist astronomer Jodie Foster (as Eleanor "Ellie" Ann Arroway). Ms. Foster works for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which monitors signals from space. Though tirelessly dedicating her hours to listing for meaning in the static of space blips, Foster takes time out for a sexual encounter when she meets handsome wavy-haired Matthew McConaughey (as Palmer Joss). Opposites attract as Mr. McConaughey is a deeply religious man. They want to mate some more, but Foster moves on when her SETI funding source is threatened...

Sometime Robert Zemeckis doesn't seem like he was in Carl Sagan's "Contact" book...

So, Foster leaves McConaughey's telephone number behind, after she packs. We see her place McConaughey's number by the telephone next to the bed where they played "hide the telescope". The reason for this scene is unexplained, so we'll just have to assume McConaughey's number is being left for the next occupant. Or, maybe the cleaning person. Apparently, Foster's suitcases are jammed, and/or she's one of those people who don't like putting anything in her pockets. Really, she couldn't possibly have disposed of the paper any other way, because we need to play up this "romance" and widen the audience...

Also regrettable is the film's muddying of the "science" versus "religion" waters...

Anything more on that subject could affect your viewing pleasure. Getting beyond the criticism (and physics improbabilities), you still get an exciting adventure. Foster offers up another strong characterization; amazingly, she has acquired an alien receptive look. The special effects are outstanding, and enough of Mr. Sagan's spacey thoughtfulness remains. The use of "real" people (Bill Clinton, Larry King) is interesting and may someday lose the datedness; until then, Rob Lowe is a hilarious stand in for Ralph Reed. Any re-make should play up a romance between "Ellie" and "Kent Clark" (blindly played by William Fichtner).

******* Contact (7/11/97) Robert Zemeckis ~ Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt

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If only the world would wake up and listen...believe!

michaelRokeefe30 November 2002

Tremendous, provocative and enlightening. Robert Zemeckis brings Carl Sagan's novel and story to the big screen. Science or science fiction. Very philosophical and able to cause your heart to stammer. A radio astronomer(Jodie Foster)spends her lifetime to prove there is intelligence somewhere deep in space. She picks up the transmitted signal from a distant star that gives a blueprint for a vehicle that will take an occupant to the source of transmission. The young woman struggles against political pressure to be the first person to visit with alien life. When she finally gets the chance, no one will believe she ever made the trip let alone believe her experience that shows up on audio/visual tape as eighteen hours of static. A near flawless cast that features: Matthew McConaughey, David Morse, James Wood, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Rob Lowe and Jake Busey. When it comes time for special effects...superb. Over two and a half hours long, but well worth the watch. I feel that Sagan will smile through eternity.

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Contact Paper

tedg18 April 2001

Warning: Spoilers

Spoilers herein.

How horrible to have this as a legacy.

For those who don't know, Sagan was a rather weak scientist who became a popular science journalist promoting a genuine sense of wonder, and who further became a champion in battling pseudoscience and rank ignorance. He was criticized for overly simplifying, and much of that was undue. But he did cast a false battle between science and religion, and then weave this simple, preachy morality play around it.

Actually, the sad truth is that most science is based on the deist notion that laws somehow pre-exist our exploration of them. Some science is pure of religion, at least the normal kind of deism, but that fascinating truth is too complex to build celebrity upon; too complex to simplify for mass consumption. So Sagan tossed it early in his career.

It is actually not true that `mathematics is the only true universal language,' at least not the specific abstractions used here which are merely descriptors convenient for human brain chemistry. First order logic, the basis of the 3D projection here, is arbitrarily cast. `It makes sense if you think like a Vegan.' Later: `the message is written in the language of science.' How unknowledgeable. My point is that the science here is quite bogus (on straight scientific terms) when extrapolated this deeply.

Religion IS simplification of complexity into simple oppositions for the masses. And that is precisely what Sagan is guilty of here. The conflict with religion is miscast. The story is unprofound, an empty legacy. So easy to poke fun at believers in stupid superstitions, but then what?

No matter. Films are rarely true, rarely profound. But would have been better for this story not to lean too heavily on the idea that `it could happen this way.'

But how about this as a film since story is mostly incidental in important films? Zemeckis annoys with other films, since he bends the cinematic vision to the trite storyline (`Gump,' `Cast Away'). But here, he really does please. Around this lacey logic, he does great visual storytelling, great framing. His camera never leaves the point of quiet observation, so is very conservative. His choreographed group shots thrill; some of his long tracking pans almost exhaust. I wonder if he does this to subliminally establish the `hereness' of living here. The colors really work to frame reality. Another framing to establish the hereness, the emphasis on surroundings: the competence of many supporting actors surpasses that of the leads.

The commentaries on the DVD are much better narrative than the story.

Jody's not an external actor which is a problem in a role which is supposed to be archetypical. in which we are supposed to identify. She is too angular, too sharp to represent humanity or the human mind. And she is not quirky enough to convince she has genius. If you ever met a genius or even a world class scientist, you'd sense a strangeness, an other-worldliness that is missing here. Jody's readings are comic Buckrogerisms.

The best effect was the attempt at the machine: superconducting massive rings tieing gravitational knots -- would have been nice to emphasize that the rings moved apparently erratically with flashes of polygonal logic. (Should have been five not four machine rings if the docahedal pod wrapping is to make sense.) The worst effect was the journey: Alice meets Kubrick -- making a knotted wormhole look like any sort of forward movement was childish indeed.

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Carl Sagan's Late Life Capitulation After Misleading so Many

LeonLouisRicci22 December 2012

A pretty good mainstream blockbuster that is sort of a dumbed down, thinking man's, philosophical, science-fiction story of (first) Contact with ex-terrestrials. It is Carl Sagan's penance for misleading so many people. In the end he tried to make amends concerning his weak kneed "scientific" explanation that there has been no visitation because there is no physical proof, and they couldn't get here from there.

You see, early in his career he "dared" to postulate that maybe this UFO thing needs some serious scientific study. But caving to peer pressure he soon learned that if he was going to be taken as a serious scientist, that open minded view was taboo and his career would find itself in a black hole.

He was a dedicated debunker and intellectual fraud, and late in life he made a feeble attempt to ponder, at least the possibility, that well, maybe just maybe there might be something to this thing after all. Unlike his colleague J. Allen Hynek who devoted his life to uncovering the truth, Sagan took the safe path of least resistance and became a NASA and Academic hack.

The movie is entertaining if not deep, although it pretends to be. But with such a mediocre Director it cannot be anything but a popcorn delivery system. That's OK, but one wishes for a little more intellect and a lot more creativity when such a subject is approached.

By the way if anyone doubts that the Government, and religious and scientific leaders for that matter, with its control the populace policies would handle this in any other way, just search for "The Brooking's Report" on ET contact and discoveries. It basically stated that if this fact were made public there would be economic and religious collapse and world wide anarchy. Carl Sagan "believed" this until it was safe not to, shame on you "Dr." Sagan.

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Come on! lt's like you're saying that science killed God. What if science simply revealed that He never existed in the first place?

lastliberal1 April 2008

We a just a small insignificant planet, in an ordinary solar system, in an ordinary galaxy, in an average part of the universe. Carl Sagan's novel reminds us of that fact and that we are insignificant without each other. Unfortunately, I would guess that 95% of the people watch this film would not grasp that and would continue to believe in what has been programmed into them from birth.

It would be so easy to focus on the religious nut cases like Richard Rank (Rob Lowe) and Joseph (Jake Busey); or the opportunists like Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey) and Michael Kitz (James Woods); or the typical bureaucratic jerks that horn in on others work like David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt). However, they were just players on a stage where larger things were being explored.

I consider this to be Jodie Foster's finest work; even better than the performances that won her her two Oscars. She is a commanding presence on the screen, and she dominated this film despite the efforts of others to push her aside.

The incredible special effects and cinematography made this most enjoyable. I never tire of looking at Hubble photos, and admiring the majesty and beauty that exists in space. I never tire of this film and the promise of what could be.

Thank you, Carl.

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Good but not great

grantss14 October 2020

Good but not great. Very interesting and intriguing, initially. Was set up for a powerful conclusion, but ended quite weakly.

Solid performances from an all-star cast: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, James Woods, John Hurt, David Morse, William Fichtner.

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anaconda-4065829 July 2015

Warning: Spoilers

Contact (1997): Dir: Robert Zemeckis / Cast: Jodi Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, James Woods, John Hurt: Provocative film about the wonders of our solar system. It regards contact and communication with other life forms. Jodi Foster stars as an astronomer who makes contact with another life form and wishes to be the spokesperson for the event. Despite oppositions she gains favour from a man of faith played by Matthew McConaughey. Arguments surface questioning God's existence over science. Foster is transported into space for further contact while her progress is recorded. We learn that her mother died when she was young but she was supported by her father. Robert Zemeckis creates realistic hysteria. He previously made such wonders as Forrest Gump and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Despite its impressive production, Contact is not one of those films. Foster is a strong presence eager for answers but heading for disappointment. McConaughey is an effective challenger as a Christian philosopher but his presence is mainly to romance Foster until he attempts to conclude with thoughtful spiritual logic. Tom Skerritt, and James Woods labour under standard roles as well as John Hurt making an appearance. Despite an unsatisfactory ending its heavy theme of discovery and communication are backed with overwhelming production. Score: 7 / 10

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AaronCapenBanner11 December 2013

Robert Zemeckis directed this compelling adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel that stars Jodie Foster as astronomer Ellie Arroway, a woman of science who is obsessed with searching for signs of alien life in the universe. Mathew McConaughey plays religious scholar Palmer Joss, who is a man of faith in God. Both come to center stage when Ellie discovers an alien signal from the star Vega that contains plans for a machine to take the passenger to an unknown destination; presumably the aliens' world, but forces in the government(led by James Woods) are skeptical. After a tragedy involving the first pilot, Ellie is then chosen to journey in the machine, and the destination and aftermath will only further controversy and discussion... Worthy filming of the book is both intelligent and exciting, with superb acting & F/X, and a most thoughtful script that evenly balances the issue of science vs. faith, and the thin line that can exist between them. Fine ending too, that doesn't provide clichés or easy answers.

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Science and religion in wedded bliss

Wuchakk20 February 2013

If you can imagine "Armageddon" without the action you'd have a pretty good idea of "Contact." Perhaps this is because they both hail from the late 90s ("Contact" came out the summer of '97 and "Armageddon" a year later). Toss in some elements of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and -- voilà -- you have "Contact." Not that it doesn't possess its own uniqueness, of course.

The story has to do with an astronomer (Jodie Foster) finding conclusive radio evidence of extraterrestrial life. The intelligence -- whatever it is -- then sends data on how to meet, but only one person can go.

Foster's character is an atheistic scientist while her romantic interest in the story believes in God (Matthew McConaughey). The respectful tension of these two mindsets in the face of extraterrestrial contact is interesting and the filmmakers do a good job of maintaining a balance between the two, rather than advocating one above the other. Generally speaking, science and religion both pursue truth (the way it really is) but their methods differ, science stresses empirical evidence whereas religion looks to faith and love. Why can't we embrace both? (What a revolutionary idea!)

Both vantage points are portrayed by people who are genuine and honest about their pursuit of truth. Between them is the character of David Drumlin (played excellently by Tom Skerritt) who is driven by selfish ambition and therefore willing to put on airs to attain his goals. But corruption comes at a price.

The film is based on Carl Sagan's book of the same name. The balance in the film between fact and faith, atheism and belief can be attributed to Sagan's spiritual agnosticism. He rejected the arrogance of atheism and has stated: "Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual." Although I'm not a disciple of Sagan I appreciate his humility, genius and honest reflections on the awesomeness and beauty of the universe and all it's mysteries. The movie conveys this.

The film runs two and a half hours.


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Technical Specifications

Runtime 2 hr 30 min (150 min) Sound Mix DTS|Dolby Digital|SDDS Color Color Aspect Ratio 2.39 : 1 Camera Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio Camera, Panavision System 65 Lenses
Beaumont VistaVision Camera, Panavision Primo Lenses
Panavision Panaflex Platinum, Panavision Primo Lenses Laboratory Consolidated Film Industries (CFI), Hollywood (CA), USA (65 mm footage)
Technicolor, Hollywood (CA), USA (35 mm footage) (color) (prints) Film Length 4,101 m (Sweden)
4,206 m Negative Format 35 mm (Eastman EXR 100T 5248, EXR 200T 5293)
65 mm (composite shots)
8 mm (childhood film scenes)
Video (TV scenes) Cinematographic Process Betacam SP (TV scenes)
Panavision (anamorphic)
Spherical (Cape Canaveral TV interview footage)
Super 8 (8 mm footage)
VistaVision (special effects) (steadycam) Printed Film Format 35 mm (Eastman EXR 2386)

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