"If no one lives on any other planet, it would be an awful waste of space.' "Contact" offers many ideas of the late Carl Sagan, who believed that because life exists, it exists throughout the universe. A smart, engrossing story of extraterrestrial intelligence that evokes "Close Encounters...," "Contact" suggests aliens would use automatic means to scan for other beings' signals, and would automatically respond with instructions on how to contact them; any race unable to use the aliens' instructions isn't ready to. The movie is also explores issues of love, death, and the existence of God.
Dr. Ellie Arroway (Foster), a radio astronomer, is dedicated to the lonely quest of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Monitoring a giant radio telescope in Puerto Rico, she scans deep space for signals. Her superior, Dr. David Drumlin (Skerritt), says that to work in her field is professional suicide. Her peers tease her: "Still waiting for E.T. to call, Ellie?' As a girl, she listened with her father (Morse), as they picked up distant stations on ham radio. He died shortly thereafter; she's convinced that somehow she will contact him, too.
She doesn't believe in God, but meets and falls in love with Palmer, a young man who does. Their tender affair ends when Drumlin halts her research funds, and she leaves for an alternate research site, in New Mexico. Before they separate, they talk; they disagree about God but, refreshingly, they (and the movie) have the courage to discuss theology. Then, suddenly, a breakthrough: unmistakable, intelligent signals! Drumlin overcomes his opposition to SETI, and even takes credit for it. The signals include designs for a machine that will let a human travel to meet the race who sent the signal.
A billionaire similar to both Howard Hughes and Armand Hammer, Hadden (Hurt) offers Ellie his own funds for her continued search. Two presidential advisers (Woods and Bassett) say the signals might be threatening. Zemeckis uses special effects to suggest events, but doesn't upstage them. "Contact' leaves viewers in awe, similar to how we feel looking through a telescope at the sky - transcendence. Our knowledge to date is tiny. Has another race been near, or learned more than we have? If so, where are they? We've only been listening for a few decades; the chance of any signal reaching us is remote. But...
James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel by Carl Sagan
Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner,
Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
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