Usually when we are asked to venture into a dangerous situation, fear grips us and we give in to some pretty wild imaginings. In Sphere Barnes (Peter Coyote), a mysterious government agent, recruits a scientific team to investigate a gigantic spaceship that has been discovered at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. First reports indicate that this machine crashed 300 years ago and that there is some form of life still aboard it. The leader of the scientists is Dr. Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman), a psychologist who wrote a government report years ago on the protocol for alien encounters. The others include Harry Adams (Samuel L. Jackson), a mathematics wiz; Ted Fielding (Liev Schreiber), a fame-seeking astrophysicist; and Beth Halperin (Sharon Stone), a biochemist who had an affair with Goodman in the past and still burns with rage over the way he abandoned her.

This sci-fi thriller, based on a novel by Michael Crichton and directed by Barry Levinson, presents a riveting and rounded anatomy of fear — the palpable heart pounding ideas and emotions which take over when we are cornered and have nowhere to hide. These scientists are forced to become intimate with fear, and, in the process, they discover some important truths about human nature. The metaphysical moral of this gripping film is an insight once expressed by Sheldon Kopp: "In dealing with fear, the only way out is in."