Film Scouts Reviews


by Leslie Rigoulot

Buy this video from

Books from
Buy The Book.

Music from
Buy The Soundtrack.

Okay, Jodie Foster has to choose between contact with aliens and contact with Matthew McConaughey. And she takes the aliens!? What kind of weird story is this anyway? Well, it is Carl Sagan's view of how contact between us and extra-terrestrial life might happen. But more importantly, it is about how Carl Sagan viewed life as scientist: a struggle for funding, a struggle for pure science, a struggle against government interference, and a struggle against the Christians. That's the one that gave me the most problems, since Christians are portrayed as fanatics, and hypocrites, i.e., Rob Lowe is cast as a Ralph Reed-like leader of the conservative Christian coalition. Yes, there is a dramatic tension between science and religion, but I was uncomfortable with Sagan's insistence that he alone had the answers, that this is his crusade and no one else's. Yeah, we all know about the nut cases, and the boycott of Disney, but "Contact" made me feel defensive about my beliefs.

With the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the alleged alien crash at Roswell and the nightly news flashes from the surface of Mars, "Contact" is right on top of what is happening today and what concerns people at the moment. And what would happen if we did receive a message from another intelligent life form? Would we actually question whether or not we are the center of the universe? What should be the most compelling portion of "Contact" is a barrage of news clips that detract from, rather than add to, the drama, as does director Robert Zemeckis' use of his now famous "Forest Gump" technique of inserting actors into actual press footage. What I did like were the performances of each and every actor. Jodie Foster is the consummate professional who actually makes it believable that any woman would neglect to call Matthew McConaughey. And McConaughey, the man most likely to succeed in following Paul Newman's footsteps, is the perfect seeker of truth. I was intrigued by William Fichtner, who portrays Kent Clark, the blind astronomer who listens for patterns in the stars, and astounded by Tom Skerritt who can just as easily model Guess? Jeans, as he can betray a colleague convincingly. James Woods sneers less dramatically than in his role as Hades in "Hercules", but still manages to give us all a reason to despise him. And just lovable is David Morse as Foster's inspirational father.

So what went wrong? The problem is explained in a few lines from the press kit.

"If you read the novel," says Zemeckis, "it spans years and countries, vast distances with hundreds of characters. The biggest challenge to me was to condense all of that into a clear and compelling story." Zemeckis worked with Sagan on striking the balance between human interest and science. Even though the filmmaker and scientist did not always see eye to eye, the partnership proved effective - just the right chemical equilibrium.

Well, maybe not. movies can be about compromise and I imagine that Sagan and then his widow, Ann Druyan, were just about as compromising as their prime scientist, Ellen Arroway. Movies are about storytelling, not informing the public. Movies are about entertainment. And at two and a half hours, "Contact" was too long of a sermon. Rated PG, Warner Bros.

Back to Contact

Back to the Press Room

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.