Making the Grades
Going where other sci-fi movies have feared to tread, Contact doesn't risk believability with reams of fictitious technical information or little green men. Instead this 150 minute epic concentrates on the possible human reactions to an interstellar contact.
This emphasis on the simplicity of basic emotions surrounded by a very complex idea is where Contact wins big. As a child, Eleanor Arroway dreamed of discovering life on other planets. Now an adult (perfectly played by Jodie Foster), this everyday girl has worked hard to achieve her dreams and is a scientist searching for extraterrestrial radio signals. She finds what she's looking for -- and more. This poses a new challenge: Protecting her rights to first discovery and working through the unnecessary political backlash and bureaucracy associated with her findings.
Viewers familiar with the late scientist and author Carl Sagan (host of the popular 1980's PBS series Cosmos and co-author of the book, Contact, on which the movie is based), will recognize Sagan's characteristic questioning about the existence of a supreme being, and the inability of humans to work together toward great discoveries. I'm pleased that Hollywood is willing to tackle a subject as serious as the existence of God in a major motion picture, but express objection to the depiction of all religious worshipers as cult oriented fanatics. Compounding the problem, the only sensible spiritual character has sex with Arroway shortly after meeting her, promoting the idea that spirituality and morals are completely independent.
Blocking the progress of science with political bantering and lack of cooperation is the valuable lesson in this movie. Sagan repeatedly pleaded with the residents of Earth to quit creating weapons of destruction and to eliminate our self-centered behaviors. In Contact, nervous bureaucrats who are far more concerned with personal gains than life on other planets, show clearly how we often lose perspective of the universal picture.
Violent content is minimal (other than a religious fanatic blowing himself up) leaving an otherwise thought provoking film that promotes the idea of intelligent life on other planets, and maybe even in Hollywood.