Contact (1997)

…”good to go”… “I’m good to go…”

My throat tightens up every time that sequence is on-screen. It fills me with such hope and excitement for the possibility of contact.

Contact is one of those movies that I won’t watch for extended periods of time, but then when I throw it on to watch, I want to rewatch it as soon as it finishes.

It might have something to do with the idealism of the story, and myself. I like to believe that we as a race are better than the petty squabbles and greed that we allow ourselves to be caught up in. That if we really wanted to, we could be so amazing.

From the film’s opening shot, starting on our small little blue planet, and all the noise we make broadcasting out into the universe, to the incredible pullback through our galaxy, traversing light-years in seconds, and listening to all of our noise die down as we move further and further out, approaching the first broadcasts we ever made.

The movie itself deals with the concepts of science, belief, faith and spirituality… Big themes… and how despite the fact that we fight against them, they actually work best in concert with one another. If everything in the universe is connected, why do we think that everything can be seperated and defined by one thing; science, faith, etc. Now in terms of spirituality and faith, I’m not really referring to a specific god or religion, just the belief that there is something bigger than us.

Jodie Foster’s character Ellie Arroway is very much the scientist when we first meet her as a child, but through it all maintains the child sense of wonder, the belief that there is something more than us in the universe.

There is an oft quoted line through the course of the film, and you can pass it off as just a line of dialogue, or actually think about it when you look in the night sky…

“If it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.”

Matthew McConaughey’s character Palmer Joss is almost the opposite of Ellie. He questions if we as a species are happier with the advancements we’ve made, if perhaps we were happier with just our spirituality and love of god. He has the faith, and spirituality, he doesn’t have the science that Ellie has.

The two of them, when they get together, work, and are in fact an idealistic representation of what we can be in terms of belief, faith, science and tech working together.

The stellar cast is rounded out, by an always under used David Morse, William Fichtner, Jena Malone, Tom Skerritt, James Woods, Angela Bassett and John Hurt under the direction of Robert Zemeckis, and a brilliant score by Alan Silvestri.

Based on the novel by Carl Sagan, it follows Ellie’s character from her youth, to her work with SETI, to discovering a signal being transmitted to earth from an extra-terrestrial source. Contained within this transmission are plans for what becomes known as The Machine, and we have to decide who gets to go? Who is the best to represent us?

Before this film (starting with Close Encounters of The Third Kind), and after, I’ve spent many a night looking skyward, and just thinking about all the things that can be out there. And who are we on this tiny little speck? And why are we filled with these delusions of our own self-importance?

It’s a humbling experience.

And that is part of what this movie wants to do…

I was disheartened when I read some of the reviews from people who felt it lakced substance, or tooko so long to get going. I think they missed the point of the film, so eloquently put by David Morse’s Ted Arroway, “Baby steps…”

If we can pull ourselves together as a planet, and work towards a common goal, unfettered by greed or the need for power, we can be so amazing, our beliefs, faith, science and technologies can let us do amazing things.

And who knows who we would meet…

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