This film meant a lot to me when I was growing up. It's a film that helped open my mind to bigger things and it works great for those uninitiated in the ways of Sagan. I can still say that after more than a decade that "Contact" still holds much relevance.
I very much like sci-fi movies but the aliens that are in it are only seen/heard through electrowaves which is a stupid concept.
Incredibly brilliant film. The story and the inmense quantity of scientific even though fictional facts were just overwhelming. Jodie Foster gave a magnificent performance and probably one of her best in her long career in films. Great film everyone should rent and enjoy.
Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway (Jodie Foster) is a brilliant scientist and confirmed atheist, having lost both parents before age 12 to -it was Gods will- events. She directs her research talents and efforts towards SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, renting time at the Arecibo Radio Telescope under the critical eye of NSF Director David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt).
At Arecibo, Ellie meets influential spiritual ponderer Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey), and has an intense, brief, but detached (on her part) affair with him. One day while looking in a Cracker Jack box, he finds a toy compass and gives it to her, 'so she wont lose her way.' Palmer wants to get closer to Ellie in terms of a relationship, but Ellie is more preoccupied with her search for extra-terrestrial life. Shortly afterwards, Ellie is angered when Drumlin pulls her team's funding. She gets in a heated debate defending her work, to which Drumlin chastises her for spending time on 'nonsense.'
Taking action, Ellie and her team pool together to try and get funding for their project from private sources. Ellie and her team spend 18 months searching, before finding their benefactor in the form of S. R. Hadden (John Hurt), a billionaire investor who had been known for innovation. Hadden's funding allows Ellie to have access to the 'Vert Large Array' (VLA) in New Mexico, a facility with several large radio antenna dishes which Ellie uses to try and continue her search. Even here, Drumlin and the scientific community are not far behind. With 4 years of finding nothing, and even though all funding for the project is privitized by Hadden Industries, the project is still in danger of being shut down. Even so, Ellie vows not to quit.
One evening, while listening intently, Ellie finds a signal: a prime number pattern emanating from the star Vega, confirmed by others the world over, undeniable and strong in its pulsing power. Other persons in world-wide countries are utilized to record the signal, since the VLA is only aligned to Vega for a certain amount of time. Shortly thereafter, Drumlin inserts himself into the situation, taking credit for Ellie's work and pressuring her with national security issues by using government pit bull Michael Kitz (James Woods) to militarize the project, feeling that due to other countries having heard the message, Ellie has compromised national security (even though the message was not specifically 'USA-only' in nature).
Kitz and his assistant Rachel Constantine (Angela Bassett) inform the President when a video feed of Hitler is found mixed into the prime number pulse pattern. It is from the 1936 Olympics, the first television signal strong enough to leave the atmosphere, but the implications are threatening. Is the alien intelligence seeing a friend in Hitler, or merely bouncing the signal back to Earth? Religious right mouthpiece Richard Rank (Rob Lowe) reports that the fundamentalist camp is wary. At the same time, a number of people descend on the VLA compound in New Mexico, trying to hear the signal. Some come for support, others, such as a religious zealot named Joseph (Jake Busey), have come to condemn Ellie and the others, preaching against science.
Some time after, it is found that interlaced within the signal, are a number of pages of data, over 60,000 in total. Ellie is then given authority over the deciphering, but after many months, the pages do not seem capable of lining up. Ellie soon gets her answer in the form of S.R. Hadden, who meets with Ellie privately. He then explains that Ellie and her team had been deciphering the pages in 2-dimensions. The pages it seems, were created in 3-dimensions. With this revelation, Ellie is able to find the primer, or the key to decoding the alien's message. Within the pages, there appear to be some form of blueprints. While Ellie speculates they could be a transport, Kitz and his security detail feel it could be a weapon of some kind, falling back on speculation that any alien life forms would be hostile to mankind.
Soon afterward, an encryption team is able to determine that the plans are indeed for a type of transport. Construction of the machine is estimated to cost as much as a third of a trillion dollars, with a number of countries vying for the ability to join in construction, or to have a representative from their country vie for the chance to travel in the machine.
A special panel is convened to select the appropriate candidate for the trip. Ellie is surprised when Drumlin resigns his post to become a candidate. Ellie is also a candidate, and makes it to the final round for deciding who will go. Palmer (who is on the panel) cripples Ellie's chances of being selected by asking her if she believes in God. Ellie indirectly answers the question by not stating a direct answer. Her falter is then picked up by Drumlin, who then speaks 'passionately,' using God in his closing remarks. His 'grandstanding' attitude towards the panel works, and he is chosen to go. Ellie feels betrayed by Palmer, who states that he couldn't choose someone who doesn't believe in God. Ellie angrily tells him that she told the truth, whereas Drumlin just told them what they wanted to hear. She then returns the compass he gave her.
Finally, the machine is completed, and it's test-run is televised on all major news networks. While Drumlin is supervising the test from the machine, Ellie is allowed to be part of the test's control team at NASA's Mission Control. All seems to be going well in testing, until Joseph (who Ellie had seen previously preaching against the project at the VLA in New Mexico) is spotted on security cameras in the machine's gantry, with explosives strapped to his chest. Drumlin and a number of men try to subdue him, but Joseph detonates the explosives, destroying the machine and those conducting the test inside the machine, including Drumlin. Ellie then returns to the VLA, saddened that her discovery or any chance of making contact appears to have been destroyed. That evening, she is surprised to find a satellite uplink in her apartment. The uplink connects her to the MIR Space Station, which has now become home to S.R. Hadden, as a way to try and slow the terminal cancer that is 'eating him alive.' Happily, Hadden shows Ellie that his company had secretly constructed a second machine on Hokkaido Island, and that he wants her to take the trip this time.
Ellie is flown to a special ship off Hokkaido, where she is met by the machine's crew, and given a pre-flight rundown, showing her everything from survival gear, to a suicide pill in case she is marooned in space. Shortly before the trip, she is reunited with Palmer, who returns her compass that she gave him during their last meeting. He then reveals that he has come to care about her, and that previously, he hadn't wanted her to go.
Ellie is then put into the transport pod, and after it is launched into the center of the machine, she appears to travel through several wormholes, seeing bits of alien machinery, and a city on a distant planet of some kind. At one point, Ellie separates herself from the restraint chair in the pod, which soon breaks apart from it's fastenings. As Ellie stares through a wall of the pod, it's translucency reveals a brilliant, celestial event. Before she realizes it, she is transported to a sandy beach environment (similar to one she drew as a little girl). Suddenly, she notices something moving towards her. As it draws near, she is shocked to see that it is her Father!
However, she soon determines that everything (the beach, the image of her Father) is not real, but memories and thoughts taken from her mind by the alien (who has taken on the guise of her Father). He explains that this was a way to allow them to make things more comfortable for her. The alien then reveals that the broadcast signal from the 1936 Olympics was how the aliens knew about Earth, and that there are many others out in space. When Ellie asks about the transport system, the alien explains that their race found it, but they have no idea who built it. The alien then explains that in examining her memories, that humans feel 'so alone.' But to them (the aliens), the one thing they've found that brings them comfort, is each other. Soon, the alien explains that Ellie has to go home. However, she tries to ask more questions, but is told by the alien that she has taken the first step, and in time, mankind will make another, and find out more. "That's the way it's been done for thousands of years," he explains.
Ellie then seemingly lands on the floor of the pod, back on Earth. Asking to know how long she was gone, she is shocked when everyone tells her that the pod just dropped straight through the machine. A number of video footage confirms this, and a video recorder that was on her communications headpiece only recorded static.
After these events, Kitz resigns from his post as National Security Adviser, and holds an inquiry to find out 'what really happened.' During the inquiry, Kitz assumes that the entire thing was a hoax: from the alien message to the construction blueprints. His feelings are that it was all a scheme perpetrated by S.R. Hadden, maybe in some crazed idea to unite the world (Hadden is unable to be presented to the panel, as he has since died onboard MIR, finally succumbing to cancer). Even with Kitz demanding answers, Ellie explains that without any evidence or proof, she firmly believes that she did travel to Vega, and that she did experience the meeting with the other being. The hearing ends, and Palmer is there to accompany her. Outside the Capitol building in Washington, a number of people are there, many in support of Ellie's theory. As she is put into a car, Palmer is asked his opinion. Stating that since he is a 'man of faith,' he is bound by a different covenant than Ellie. But even so, he does state that he believes her.
In the aftermath of the inquiry, Kitz is in a discussion with Rachel Constantine. After discussing the investigation committee's findings, Rachel explains to Kitz how it appears that he overlooked the portion of the report regarding Ellie's video recorder. While Kitz said that it had just recorded static, Rachel has discovered in the report that it actually recorded 18 hours of static.
Ellie is shortly thereafter given a grant to continue her work. The ending of the film cuts to some time later on. Ellie is still working at the VLA, and even more dishes are being created, to allow the team to search further into the galaxy.
It was worth sticking with though, and it did get very good and exciting in the end. Put it like this, I went from literally nearly asleep and nodding off, to bolt awake in the part where she went into space. And this from a girl who doesn't like sci fi especially!
I generally like Jodie Foster, but I wasn't so keen on her here for some reason, and it seemed ridiculous for Jenna Malone to play her younger self. This is nitpicking, but Jenna has such beautiful straight hair, and Jodie's looked like a rats nest through most of this. It definitely wasn't a glamourous role for her, and her accent kind of annoyed me here too. Ditto to Matthew McConaughey.
I did admire the atheism in this movie shown by Jodie's character. It was a very brave more for the makers of this film to risk making their main character unlikeable to a lot of people in this way. I am an atheist myself, so for me it was refreshing to see someone else come out and say it instead of being fearful, but I can acknowledge a vast audience for this may not feel that way.
All in all, a good little film. Worth sticking with, although it does take a while to see that payback.
Dr. Ellie Arroway, after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of intelligent aliens, who send plans for a mysterious machine.
Jodie Foster stars as a radio astronomer who receives a signal from outer space, and thus begins a media frenzy of speculation over the signal's origin, its purpose and its intent. This brilliant sci-fi drama from director Robert Zemeckis achieves heights of awe-inspiring visuals and ideas not seen since 2001: A Space Odyssey, and in its approach to develop Foster's character, surpasses even that film. I'd like to say more about the movie, about its themes and controversial debates, but much of the joy of watching Contact is discovering how the plot unfolds and witnessing the visual surprises for yourself (suffice to say that the opening and closing segments are among the most beautiful passages ever seen on film). Sorry, Steven Spielberg, the greatest director ever you are, but protege Zemeckis showed you up on how to craft a true sci-fi drama.