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Rewatching Contact: 23 years later

Maggie Mae


I recently rewatched the 1997 Sci-Fi film Contact. Directed by Forrest Gump's Robert Zemeckis (among many, many other well known films), Contact was a film that I had mostly forgotten about. Sure, everytime a new sci-fi film came out in the past decade, it was mentioned. But mostly I remembered it as kind of weird Jody Foster film that I saw in high school. (Now you know how old I am!) 

Contact, despite being 23 years old, is still incredibly relevant to this day. Dr. Ellie Arroway works for SETI, a scientist in a single minded pursuit to find evidence of alien life in the galaxy. David Drumlin, science advisor to the President of the United States, pulls her funding in the most condescending, sexist, garbage way. 

Seriously, this guy showed up and was a literal cigar smoking, mustache twirling, villain. He ignores Dr. Arroway, talks over her in meetings, dismisses her, and his final words to her were basically "I won, because the world sucks."

Tom Skerrit is the perfect foe for this film. He talks over Dr. Arroway. He takes credit for her work. He is a glimpse into the real life dynamics that exist in most industries, including government and science. (And probably every board room that every existed.) He is frustrating and awful, and that is in no small part due to my own experience with the low rent versions of David Drummond. 


After Drummond pulls her funding, Dr. Arroway and her partner/friend Kent (played by William Fichtner, who you've seen somewhere but can't quite figure it out)  move on to finding funding through non-governmental sources. Eventually Arroway gives a rather cliche speech to a giant board room with three people and a camera and secures funding from a secretive billionaire. When her team finally finds a signal, coming from the star system Vega, there is the expected fight between government agencies over who should be in charge. It's all very frustrating and annoying and realistic. 

Why would anyone want the scientists in charge? What if the aliens intend to do harm?

Meanwhile, Dr Arroway continues to do her work, with her team, and attempts to navigate the politics the best she can. Into the fray comes the everpresent "religion" which throws yet another attempt at breaking the unbreakable Dr. Arroway. 

Before long, the film dives into a rather shallow religion vs science debate, with some dubious statistics (or is it true that 95% of the Earth's population in 1997 believed in a God?). 

Contact isn't perfect. But the politics, the feminism, the clearly cyborg Rob Lowe who does not age, Matthew McConaughey as a Christian Philosopher (who seemed to actually be hurt by a woman treating him the way many, many, many McConaughey characters have treated women), James Woods, and Angela Bassett make this an 8/10 for me. 

Other notes: 

  • Alan Silvestri does the music and it's on point, though the sound mixing is pretty dated and really annoying (very very quiet, then LOUD then quiet then LOUD.) 
  • Technology! I loved watching everyone run around trying to wake up these huge computers by smacking the space bar. 
  • The office that Dr. Arroway works out of in New Mexico is way too cluttered and dirty for 2020, so much paper. 
  • I think I mixed this up in my head a bit with frequency, because I kept thinking she was going to hear a message from the dead father, played by David Morse. 
  • Dr Arroway, with everything shaking and crumbling around her, no idea if she's about to die, be sent to space to die, explode, or a million other possibilities, just keeps saying "OK to Go." That's strength and that's a thirst for knowledge. 
  • Is anyone really surprised that the Christians want to shut it down? BTW, the preacher is played by Gary Busey's son, which is why he looks familiar. 



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I read the book circa 1989/1990 or so.  And I love this movie.  

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