- Run time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- Where to Watch: Prime Video ($)
After the death of her father at age 9, Dr Ellie Arroway grew up to become a renowned astronomer in a male dominated field. Inspired by her father, she continues to search the stars for signs of extra-terrestrial life. But when the funding for her work at SETI is pulled, her ambition is tested. Sensing an opportunity to take advantage of a brilliant scientist, reclusive millionaire S.R. Hadden offers Ellie a deal. She gets her funding back, but the rest of the scientific community is hot on her heels, dead set on ruing her reputation or taking credit for her work. Not one to give up, Ellie discovers a signal coming through from a nearby star called Vega. When she reports her discovery, it makes international headlines as the first contact with intelligent life. But when the signal is decoded, fear grips the world as the true meaning of the signal is debated and world leaders decide what to do.
Several years after her fantastic performance in Silence of The Lambs, Jodie Foster leads Contact as Dr. Ellie Arroway. Her performance in this sci-fi thriller is no less fantastic and she’s given plenty of room to make the character breathe and live in this world. Fosters portrayal and down to earth personality nails this role perfectly. Her infallible work ethic and “won’t take no for an answer” attitude shines through Ellie. Even when she’s down and kicked repeatedly by the big names in her field, Arroway continues to keep up the fight and ultimately turns her dreams into reality. And her chemistry and interaction with costar Matthew McConaughey is really something special.
McConaughey joins this cast in a role that many modern audiences might not expect. He plays a man of faith, something that is considerably different than his roles in the 2010s and beyond. As somebody who was really unfamiliar with McConaughey’s work prior to Interstellar, I was surprised to see him play a character like Palmer Joss in a movie like this. His skillful portrayal of a commonly one dimensional archetypal character is surprisingly deep and respectful. I enjoyed this performance quite a bit and he really played well off of Foster’s detached and impersonal Ellie Arroway.
Tom Skerritt and John Hurt join the cast as the supporting crew. Reunited as former cast members of Alien, they don’t have any on-screen interaction but it’s still cool nonetheless. Skerritt plays the a-hole scientist who simply goes around stealing credit for other people’s work. He’s a real piece of work and Skerritt does a great job of making me hate the character. Hurt portrays a reclusive genius millionaire who throws around his fortune on a whim. He’s kind of like Elon Musk-lite, but only if he skipped the step where he morphed into the Bane of Twitter. Both push the story to the same conclusion, but one motivates Ellie by stealing her thunder and the other helps her by providing her the tools she needs for success. I can’t ignore James Woods either, even though I’d like to. He’s just the worst in this movie and I despise his character so great job, Woods.
There are a few ridiculous concepts in this movie that can’t be ignored. The main one that springs to mind is the absolute asinine idea that a completely identical facility was made on the other side of the world JUST BECAUSE IT”S CONVENIENT. That killed a lot of the feasibility of this movie. The reclusive millionaire / code breaker who dies aboard a space station didn’t break my immersion, nor did the terrorist sneaking aboard the launch pad. It was the complete lack of realistic explanation as to why there was a secret duplicate space gate. Spin it as an arms race between the US and Russia again. That would have been better than just saying “surprise, here’s a back up”.
Contact is a 1997 sci-fi thriller from Robert Zemeckis, starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. Based on an intense story and backed up incredible accuracy the great Carl Sagan, Contact is an excellent way to spend two and a half hours. It is a compelling narrative with painfully relevant commentary. This movie took the groundwork laid by 2001 and pushed it to the next level. With such an interesting and thought provoking story, it provided the runway for conceptual sci-fi thrillers like Interstellar and Arrival to become runaway successes.