But, of course, this is a film. Dr. Arroway is the protagonist, and a very likable one. The audience wants to see her succeed and gain recognition, so it gives us that in very convenient ways. The romance that's not really a romance between Jodie Foster and McConaughey is believable, but almost unnecessary. I believe the director and writer both understood this, which is why nothing really blossomed between them and was mainly created to display the gap between two characters with wildly different beliefs and mindsets. The two characters displayed how the world would be torn if such a thing like this were to ever happen, with very well-written and interesting conversations between them.
Overall, this film does raise questions, but sadly, it answers them, unlike Prometheus (2012) or Under the Skin (2013). It is a crowdpleaser with great performances by Foster as the lead and McConaughey. The relationships between Foster and her team are fully formed and believable, especially with the character of Kent. This film is mildly thought-provoking, gripping, and a hell of a lot of fun.
Personally, I must admit that I myself have worried what other worlds' inhabitants would think of our civilization from the messages it might get from Earth. Though I thankfully haven't lost any sleep over it (I have 'Thumper' in the apartment above me to thank for that), as Led Zeppelin would say in the classic 'Stairway to Heaven', '...and it makes me wonder'.
As what happens in most of these movies, it's rather anticlimactic once the different cultures meet. I'll say to my dying day that the most difficult thing to do in cinema is end a film. Here (unlike perfect sci-fi masterpieces, like '2001: A Space odyssey' or the more recent 'Children of Men') the decent but otherwise unspectacular ending makes me avoid a perfect rating here. But it's awfully close, worth both owning and rewatching, and provides fairly early evidence (which would come to bold fruition in 'Killer Joe') that Matthew McConaughey could actually act. It's also a tossup between this, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' and 'Back to the Future' for my favourite Zemeckis moment.
What really impressed me is despite the fact that it looked really dated (by its CG and the actors' clothes/hair and whatnot), the reactions of the different types of characters to the presence of an alien signal getting in contact with humanity was surprisingly realistic. From the sleazy politicians only wanting to capitalize on it for their own gain to the military people assuming the worst case scenario to the public taking different stances based on their personal beliefs and religions, it all felt to me like what might actually happen if a scenario like this ever arose. Does that mean it's ALL realistic? No. It takes considerable liberties with certain things and 1 or 2 of the performances felt a little overdone, but overall it's a sci-fi movie with a shockingly real world slant (at least until the end).
I feel like I should really dislike this movie, as certain core elements to it are things that normally would turn me off to watching it, but in the end I thought it was a really great movie. Borderline fantastic actually, despite how dated it may look today. If you're a fan of sci-fi and have the patience to stick with its slow pacing, this is definitely one to check out.