In a summer being bombarded with 100 million dollar spectacles and
action pictures with little or no room to leave an audience breathing, it is
truly refreshing to have a big budget Hollywood film arrive in theatres that
is skillfully presented, monumental in its vision (and visuals) and most
importantly one that will stir emotion in audiences familiar with the
Hollywood style of artful filmmaking.
That film is 'Contact'. Based on the novel by Carl Sagan, it's from
Oscar winning director Robert Zemeckis ('Forrest Gump'), who is a master at
combining technology and academics in film so brilliantly and tells the story
of an astronomer (Jodie Foster) driven by passion and intelligent belief that
Earthlings are probably not the only ones in the known universe with
intelligent life. Her mission in life started when she was very young.
Before she was ten years old she displayed stunning characteristics in
achieving greatness through the field of science and mathematics and saw her
way through to become a very important research technician, teacher and
pioneer in her chosen field. Her greatness is not realized at first as her
low profile is eventually brought to the surface one evening as she receives
radio transmissions from outer space thought to be the first contact with
The world soon learns of this historic communication and there is a
frenzy of panic and protest which develops between the government, religious
groups, various world organizations and people in general as philosophy tries
to make sense of this seemingly impossible event.
Transmissions begin filtering through the universe and eventually arrive
on Earth that categorize a blueprint of some sort which will enable the
people of our planet to build a machine of transportation to touch the
unthinkable if someone is willing to make the journey. Politics and
competitive acts make their way through the system and a man (Tom Skerritt)
is finally chosen as the one who will make the journey. He is someone with
whom Foster has had great conflicts with many times in her career and his
choice is a frustrating one for her to swallow. That is as far as I will go
in telling you anything more about this modern masterpiece as many more
events unfold which lead to an eventual conclusion that will leave audiences
debating long after they leave the theatre.
Jodie Foster is moving and head strong as the protagonist in this film
in a performance that is the best so far in 1997 and she could find herself
nominated for an Oscar next spring. 1997 has been lacking in great roles for
women so far and Foster's is the best one given since Frances McDormand's
Oscar winning, breakthrough and noticable performance in 1996's 'Fargo'.
Other members of the cast include James Woods as a doubting and borderline
villain in the role of a national security agent, Angela Bassett as a White
House aide, John Hurt in a dark and fascinating performance as a man of
undisclosed wealth aiding Foster in her journey and Matthew McConaugheyas a
writer in a role that is somewhat under written and that is the film's only
I am tempted to make comparisons to other classic science fiction films
but somehow 'Contact' manages to escape comparisons because while it is
certanly influenced by achievements of the past, it's presentation is totally
original, intelligent and without pretention.
Copyright © 1997 Walter Frith