Contact offers an inspired and inspiring close encounter with the ineffable mystery that lies at the heart of each individual and at the core of the majestic universe. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) is a driven American astronomer using highly sophisticated radio telescopes to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. When she picks up a message from Vega, a star 26 light years away, scientists from around the world join her in an effort to decipher the continuing communications. Eventually, they discover instructions for building a machine for intergalactic travel.
The excellent screenplay by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg based on the 1985 novel by Carl Sagan uses a variety of characters to explore the social, scientific, and spiritual implications of contact with extraterrestrials. Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey), a religious scholar who's in love with Ellie, believes that the one person chosen to take the trip to Vega should be a believer in God. David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt), the President's national science adviser, uses raw power to advance his ideal of technological progress. National Security Advisor Michael Kitz (James Woods) is convinced that every defensive precaution should be taken to protect America from the possible malevolence of aliens. S. R. Hadden (John Hurt), an eccentric billionaire, wants to use the trip as a ticket to insure his fame in history. And both a terrorist and the leader of a right-wing religious coalition have their own agendas for stopping the flight to Vega. As people jockey for positions all around her, Ellie holds on to her dream of participating in the ultimate adventure for a scientist.
Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) has fashioned a truly awesome movie that celebrates the spiritual practices of listening, wonder, love, and zeal. It affirms that there are times and places where reason must yield to mystery. Contact is also the only film of 1997 to present its audience with a mantra tailor-made for what ails our crazed and time-starved society: "Small moves."