Rated: PG
Runtime: 2 Hours and 30 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: B

Contact is a very intellectual movie, and that is a wonderful thing. I love a movie that respects my intelligence, that bothers to make me think rather than being content simply to entertain me. I want a movie that provides food for thought. And "Contact" does a pretty effective job of bringing up points for the viewer to ponder and to mull over later.

"Contact" is the story of a woman named Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster). Ellie is a scientist who has been looking to the heavens for her entire life and hoping that something besides us can be found there. She listens night after night at a radio telescope, hoping for any hint of another race up there anywhere.

One night, she gets her wish. A signal is sent. When the signal is decoded, it appears to be the instructions on the building of a machine that will transport a human being to the home planet that sent the signal. Preparations are made to choose the individual who will go. Ellie becomes a candidate for these preparations, which the entire world are watching with anxious anticipation.

The film does a commendable job of illustrating the problems and differences of opinion that such a meeting, that the proof of life on another planet, would invoke. In particular, it shows the impact that such a meeting would have on the religions. I was worried here. I believe in God and, although religious people can often be the biggest detriment to their own cause, I am a little tired of movies always taking the side of religion over science every single time. I have nothing against science, but I just think that painting all religious people as simple-minded idiots is getting a little old. It was nice, here, to see both sides of the debate given equal footing. It was nice to see both sides represented fairly, and with neither side coming off shallowly.

The government, however, is portrayed slightly as the antagonist. Why must every general think that the arrival of alien beings is a cause to ready the nukes? "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" showed the government as wanting to keep the whole thing a secret, but still wanting to talk peace. But not all the government officials in the movie are shown this way, and it is generally pretty fair to them too.

My main problem with this film is the meeting between the humans and the aliens. The entire movie is made to show this meeting, the entire movie builds up to that moment of contact (look at the damn title, for God's sake). But when the final meeting does come, it's a bit of a letdown. I won't go any further into it, I don't want to ruin it for you, but after two and a half hours something more impressive would have been welcome.

Another thing that bothered me was the lack of zaniness. Robert Zemeckis's other films all had a kamikaze thread of delightful insanity in them. Even "Forrest Gump", for which he won an Oscar, showcased a love for the outlandish and the absurd. Here, everything is played very straight. Mind you, I don't have a problem with that. But when a man can do the zany so very, very well it comes as a slight disappointment when he reins in the insanity. All I can say is that I hope this isn't the start of a trend. That would be a real shame.

But even these shortcomings cannot change the fact that this is a very good movie with some very good points to make. If you like a movie that respects your brain, you may want to give this one a try.