The 90s were a high time for original sci-fi expeditions. Not only was Star Trek in full swing on TV and in theaters, but we received a pair of films in 1997 that helped put a more realistic “spin” on things. The first was Gattaca, a film I didn’t necessarily like when I was younger but now quite enjoy. The second was Contact which…well, the same can be said about that film too, really. Fact is both of the films dealt with very adult situations and ten year old viewing them just made for a very, very boring time. Of course in Contact’s situation one could say it’s boring regardless of age, but it’s such an interesting take on the whole genre it gets a pass…unless you’re the creators of South Park, then you get to rag on it occasionally.
Two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster stars in this visionary drama based on Carl Sagan’s novel about human kind’s first encounter with extraterrestial life, directed by another Oscar winner, Robert Zemeckis.
Short synopsis? Yes. It doesn’t matter though because the film is fairly basic in structure. The only thing that truly works against it is the run time (153 minutes) which can seem like an eternity…but honestly, that’s just the type of film this is. It wouldn’t work as a faster paced action film or a more cut to pieces drama. It’s a very slowly progressing outing that honestly excels because of its run time. Characters are properly formed, plots are laid out with precision and the whole film coasts along pretty much the entire time.
This isn’t to say there aren’t down times in the film. But what slower periods there are just serve to help strengthen the characters. The whole Foster and McConaughey relationship is a bit superfluous in the long run, but the other vast array of characters in the film are just things that really add to it. David Morse, William Fichtner, Tom Skerritt…the list goes on and it’s really a solid collection of character actors whom you don’t see too often nowadays. Not as much as you did in the 90s, at least.
But what really makes this film work is the realism within it. The doctored footage of Bill Clinton commenting on the matters that take place in this film caused an uproar at the White House at the time, but honestly it does just really help the film feel more realistic. On top of that are the CNN panels in the film (also something that caused some debate back in 1997), which, again, just add to the realism of the film.
Realism aside, however, the film is only as good as its ultimate pay off and the alien revelation at the end is the ultimate “…that’s it!?” ending to a film. You spend the vast majority of the time gearing up to see the alien and it just ends up being a sequence that lasts oh so briefly. Still, it’s a beautifully done sequence and, really, all of the special effects of the film are incredibly well done. It’s just, again, such a slow and leisurely movie that it’s not really much for creating rampant periods of awe and wonder…it’s just a gradual movie that you go along with.
Of course watching the movie now with knowledge of all the controversies that surrounded it (Clinton, CNN, cyanide pills, South Park, and some errant lawsuits) can actually add to the enjoyment of it, but in the end it’s still a really well done sci-fi outing. Recommended.
Warner has released what is basically a carbon copy of the DVD release…but with Blu-ray visuals and audio. This is great because it’s been so long since its original DVD release (it was one of the first DVDs my brother ever bought, I think). As is it arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with an insert denoting the importance of firmware updates. Menus are a simple single splash, as there is no forced menu (film auto starts). Video arrives in a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer that really shows off the cinematography of this film remarkably well. Warner didn’t try to erase any grain or clean it up too much, so the 12 year old nature of this outing does show through on occasion, but overall it is remarkably enjoyable for its age. Plenty of detail and, again, the CGI does a pretty solid job of standing out on its own here.
The TrueHD 5.1 DD mix is a bit less impressive; clearer than the lossless track from the previous DVD release, obviously, but still a bit subdued. Then again it is a very dialogue driven film so it’s only on occasion that the subwoofer and surrounds wake up…although when the subwoofer opts to wake up and growl, it really lets loose on more than a few occasions.
Extras are all ported over from the previous DVD release and include:
• Behind the Story
• Commentary by Jodie Foster
• Commentary by Robert Zemeckis (Director) & Steve Starkey (Producer)
• Commentary by Ken Ralston & Stephen Rosenbaum (Visual Effects)
• The Making of the Opening Shot
• The Making of the NASA Machine Destruction
• The Making of the Harrier Landing
• The High Speed Composition Reel
• Machine Fly By
• Hadden’s Plane
• NASA Control Room
• 5.1 music only track
The featurettes and such are pretty basic, but it’s the trio of commentaries that stand out on this release. They more than make up for whatever lack of cool secrets that weren’t divulged in the by-the-numbers featurettes, as you get a full array of participants. The Foster solo track is a bit on the dull side, but it’s still a welcome addition—between her track and the director/producer and visual effects artists track, we covered the full gamut here in terms of production sides and stories. Some overlap in stories between the three, but nothing major.
Overall a solid release and a worthy upgrade if you’re looking to ditch the snapper case original DVD release. Recommended.
Contact is now available on Blu-ray.