I watched Contact many years ago – possibly even at the cinema – and I read the book, too. I don’t remember the book very clearly, although I do remember thinking it was better than the film (what a surprise). I had fond memories of the movie, so when we decided to watch it again recently, I was a little apprehensive that the Suck Fairy might have visited.
I still really enjoyed it. The opening sequence is still simply marvellous; I utterly adore the perspective given to our Little Blue Dot, of course very appropriate given it was written by Sagan.
Jodie Foster… didn’t do much for me. To be honest I’ve never really understood the hype about her. I’ve never seen any of her early roles, to my knowledge, so maybe I just don’t have the context. But here – well, she’s good, but I certainly don’t see it as a role that no other actress could possibly fill. That said I do really like her character. I love how strong Ellie is, how determined she is to get her science done, that she listens to the radio waves herself rather than leaving it all to the computers. I also really appreciated that there’s really only one character who doesn’t take her seriously as a scientist, and that’s David Drumlin, whom I have called all sorts of rude names because of his treatment of her. His arrogance and sexism are aspects of his characters; they’re not meant to be taken seriously, as reflecting the sensible world. (Also, Tom Skerrit is brilliant.)
The rest of the cast is mostly good. I love William Fichtner: for his cameo in The West Wing as the judge who gets to be Glenn Close’s foil and plays with Toby’s mind, his bit part in The Dark Knight – he’s wonderful. And he’s great as Kent; the being blind is interesting and not over-played, and for me just seemed part of the diversity of characters. Yes, it’s played on to get the “ooh he has super hearing” thing, but it doesn’t feel overdone. David Morse is good in his cameo as Ellie’s dad… and then there’s Matthew McConaughey.
I like Palmer, McConaughey’s character, in theory. I really really like that the religious issue is a fundamental one in the movie, even though I don’t entirely agree with how it was handled; and even though I find it irritating that Palmer, as apparently the President’s go-to man on religion, ignores one of the big moral precepts of Christianity that helps set Christians apart from others in society (that whole no-sex-before-marriage thing). But I think he’s interesting, and I think he provides an interesting contrast to Ellie: for all he’s equally intent, he’s more relaxed than her, and they have some great discussions about evidence and faith. The Palmer character and his interactions with Ellie does, however, provide one of the things which most grieved me about the movie. He admits that he screwed up her chances to do the thing she most wants to do in the entire world not simply for religious reasons (which, actually, I liked – having to make the decision between your lover and your feelings of faithfulness towards the spiritual majority of the world), but for selfish reasons? Seriously? And our heroine still likes him? Pfft.
As a movie, I think it still holds up. The tech etc don’t feel like they’ve dated much, society doesn’t feel like it’s changed that much, and the look of it is still contemporary. Overall I was relieved, and pleased. Contact is still very watchable.