SF elements

SETI, first contact



Dr Ellie Arroway [Jodie Foster] is a radio astronomer engaged in SETI, and enduring hostility from her superiors. But she keeps managing to scrape funding. Eventually, just before the project is about to be closed down, she hears a signal coming from the direction of Vega -- first prime numbers, then TV signals, then detailed information for a spacecraft...

The film (based on the SF novel by Carl Sagan ) takes a while to get started, but there are some good performances, and the depiction of scientists at work isn't quite as risible as usual. Foster's character is pleasingly intelligent, and, on at least two occasions, remarkably self-restrained (I would have been tempted to deck the guy).

[Dr Ellie Arroway]

The film is slightly spoiled for me by the utterly inscrutable behaviour of the aliens -- what, you had us spend a third of a trillion dollars, have people die, all for a single 18 hours visit that leaves no evidence! What are you, particularly sadistic practical jokers? -- especially as this behaviour was needed solely to make a point concerning the religion plot-strand.

But at least Foster's character gets some good rationalist one-liners, and she never wimps out of being a scientist.

Rating: 3.5

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 20 December 2000