Film, Science fiction
3 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)

Ellie Arroway (Foster) has devoted her scientific career to scanning the cosmos for signs of life. One day she's rewarded with a radio transmission from a distant galaxy, and the world is transfixed. It's clear that the aliens have plans for us, but whether for good or ill defies human understanding. An intergalactic ambassador is called for, and Ellie wants the job. Zemeckis aims for spiritual reverence reminiscent of Close Encounters: the scope and scale of his picture are established by the first shot with a brilliantly sustained zoom through space and time. There are two more virtuoso sequences: a climactic space trip and a breathtakingly outrageous piece of post-modern appropriation with the first images broadcast from outer space. Regrettably, these visual coups only point up the inadequacy of a screenplay (from Carl Sagan's novel) which marries profound philosophical questions with hokey melodramatics, shallow characters and infantile conclusions. It's not just that it resorts to an albino Adventist to inject spurious suspense, nor that it foists McConaughey on us as a randy Luddite priest who is, coincidentally, the love interest (the pillow talk is physics vs metaphysics). It also features heavy-handed exposition, repetitive, maudlin flashbacks, uneven performances and endless sermonising.

Release details

150 mins

Cast and crew

Robert Zemeckis
James V Hart, Michael Goldenberg
Jodie Foster
Matthew McConaughey
Tom Skerritt
Angela Bassett
John Hurt
David Morse
Rob Lowe
William Fichtner
James Woods

Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 3 star:1
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  • 1 star:0
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The problem with this movie was only the ending.  It had a perfect 3 act structure, that acting was damn good (especially Jodie Foster), but it built up towards something and the cop-out payoff was the shot heard around the movie world.  When your ending is lampooned in a movie called "Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back" and you completely agree with a slacking fowl mouth stoner, then it's time to re-consider your choices. The movie was a perfect build, presenting us something wonderful as well as a very even handed debate over science vs. faith (I have no clue why everyone says "science vs space", that was not the debate at all.)  Not to mention the stunning visuals - we start over the earth with a mix of radio/TV broadcast and follow them out into space but the further we get the older they sound until we are so far we no long hear anything but eerie silence beyond our solar system into places of different colored stars, pull back beyond out galaxy and as the galaxy get smaller we see it's part of a small cluster of galaxies and as we pull back we go through an obviously larger galaxy but once past that the universe if full of nothing but galaxies littering the screen the same way star litter our sky.  Then we move through a warp that become the bedroom of a young girl trying to reach someone on her radio.  One of the most perfect beginnings of any movie which not only takes us to our main character but gives us a scope of the how big the idea behind this movie's theme was.  The ending should have found a way to put a period on that scope.  It's should have been Richard Dreyfuss when he finally saw the starship, or the Deathstar explosion when Luke hit the target, or what happened when Dave Bowman reached Jupiter and the huge Monolith.  The movie made a promise in it's story and build-up and in the end gave us a tease.   If they had just followed through to the ending logical conclusion this movie probably would have been higher on this list. 

This movie is an even-handed presentation of the faith versus science debate, which is rare for Hollywood. The movie itself is engaging and interesting, although it would have even better if there were less ambiguity in the ending.

At the heart of this film is the `faith versus science`, argument, and one must salute this production for its ambitious concept. But as the Time Out review points out, you can mix `profound philosophical questions` with Hollywood blockbuster melodramatics. The result is therefore somewhat disappointing . . . but as Bjorn correctly points out, you can't help being `moved` by the wonderful graphics and the schmaltzy orchestra . . There are big questions in this film . . and there is a big budget . . . . . . but it doesn't really work despite Jodie Foster's valiant efforts . . . Three stars for trying . . .

It's so bad and kitschy, that you actually enjoy it for no need of commitment and getting a big laugh out of it. It's interesting as a proof of changing times. The backup space machine was built in Japan. Today it would have been China.