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Review by Walter Frith
4 stars out of 4

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 alien life.

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 weakness.

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

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