Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems.
Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway has long been interested in contact to faraway lands, a love fostered in her childhood by her father, Ted Arroway, who passed away when she was nine years old leaving her then orphaned. Her current work in monitoring for extraterrestrial life is based on that love and is in part an homage to her father. Ever since funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was pulled on her work, which is referred to some, including her NSF superior David Drumlin, as more science fiction than science, Ellie, with a few of her rogue scientist colleagues, have looked for funding from where ever they could get it to continue their work. When Ellie and her colleagues hear chatter originating from the vicinity of the star Vega, Ellie feels vindicated. But that vindication is short lived when others, including politicians, the military, religious leaders and other scientists such as Drumlin, try to take over her work. When the messages received from space are decoded, ... Written by
Footage of a press conference by President Bill Clinton was re-edited and altered and caused some controversy. A few years later, CNN would ban the use of its logo in fictional movies, as well as bar its reporters from doing cameo appearances (although Larry King does appear from time to time). See more »
When the signal is transmitting the prime numbers, we are able to hear and count the transmission to number eleven. However, after that, when the actors stop counting and start talking at once with each other, the signal never pauses after what would be the next prime number, thirteen. Later it is revealed that the signal transmitted all the prime numbers to 101. See more »
This movie examines the premise of what would actually happen if we were to make first contact with aliens, and how that contact would logically happen.
The protagonist is loosely based on an actual astronomer named Jill Tartar. She is focused on finding other life almost to the exclusion of all else in her life. When aliens respond to the Earth's first interstellar broadcast, she is caught up in the hysteria.
What follows is an interesting observation of humanity rather than any aliens. We learn very little about aliens throughout the movie. Rather, we see how people react to knowledge of this magnitude. The movie examines religious, scientific, military and international reactions to the idea of humanity not being alone. I thought they did a fantastic job of representing the scale of reaction, from the fanatic to the skeptic, within the confines of a 2 hour movie. The movie mixes a thoughtful, sentimental tone with a good pace for action and excellent characterization. There is a somewhat arbitrary love story thrown in, but it is tolerable based on how it helps the protagonist's long-delayed progress towards a deeper understanding of her own humanity.
The movie ends in a poignant yet hopeful tone, understanding our human problems but accepting them. I think the message is that the alien contact is the catalyst that will help humanity mature and grow past our more dark halves.
If you like the movie I'd recommend the book. It gives much more insight on the aliens, and expands the scope as there are a number of scientists that participate rather than just one from America, and goes more in depth into the science. It also attempts to show that religion and science can get along. My favorite part is at the very end of the book where Sagan shows how God hid a message in the very fabric of the cosmos, that we could only read when we were ready. Be prepared however, the book is quite a bit drier than the movie and those who don't enjoy reading Discover magazine may have to dig in to get through the slower, more scientific parts.
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