Contact: A Personal Voyage

Contact: A Personal Voyage

9.9 (1)
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Contact: A Personal Voyage
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"There are over 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone ... It is inconceivable and arrogant
to even consider that ours would be the only one hosting intelligent life, in all the universe."
- Carl Sagan
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Brief Synopsis:
We explore one possible road to mankind's first encounter with extraterrestial life. Curiosity and the scientific method clash with fear, religion, and greed. Along the way everyone's beliefs are tested. The film is a tribute to Carl Sagan who spent his life popularizing scientific inquiry, who tirelessly championed the search for extraterrestial life, and who stimulated the awe and sense of wonder in all of us. The edit is about Dr. Arroway's personal journey more than mankind's journey. Her perseverance against the odds and despite resistance. Palmer Joss, the alien, and Mr. Kitz are less frustrating, and the last quarter of the film is greatly improved. As epilogue Dr. Sagan himself talks about Contact, science, and religion (audio excerpt from 1985 Studs Terkel interview).
I really wanted to love Contact when it came out. It had so many ingredients going for it. Carl Sagan was an inspirational educator. Who doesn't remember Cosmos? (If you don't: Go. Watch it now!). Robert Zemeckis has made great films. Jodie Foster too. I'm a fan of science fiction that keeps the science credible. I remember being disappointed that Sagan's novel was made into a good-but-not-great movie in 1997. What held it back was the preachy Hollywood-drama, and the way the film dragged in the final act. That is now redeemed! This edit reinvigorates our want for the scientific method and the search for extraterrestial life!

With current attacks on science in politics and media, it's timely to revisit Contact. And much of Sagan's work for that matter. His baloney detection kit remains relevant as ever.
Additional Notes:
1080p MKV 5.1 Surround English subtitles
Other Sources:
Additional video: Carl Sagan shows us "How Would We Communicate with Alien Life" in a separate 8-minute video (excerpt from Royal Institution lecture "The planets" 1977).
Additional audio: Carl Sagan interviewed by Studs Terkel in 1985 (
Release Information
Special Features
- Audio commentary tracks by Jodie Foster and Robert Zemeckis + Steve Starkey (long silences are truncated to fit the new runtime, dialog is complete).
- Supplementary video: Carl Sagan shows us "How Would We Communicate with Alien Life" in a separate 8-minute video (excerpt from Royal Institution lecture "The planets" 1977).
Cuts and Additions:
Palmer, the priest, is trimmed the most. Now he's straightforward supportive of Ellie. He's visibly conflicted about his feelings for her, but he doesn't take that out on her anymore. Gone are the awful "Did you love your dad? Prove it." and the sabotaging "Do you believe in God?" at the panel hearing. He doesn't vote against her (or at least doesn't say so). He comes to Japan to be supportive and not just to ease his conscience. Removed many cutaway shots to his pensive blank face. These trims also remove the re-gift and re-re-gift of the compass.

Ellie's mom is no longer mentioned. Too many Hollywood movies have the mom die at the start of the story, just to make the protagonist's life harder. It's become a lazy plot device. All references to mom are cut (Ellie to dad, Ellie to Palmer, Hadden to Ellie). This also removes the jarring omission of who raised Ellie after her dad died. Did she live in that big house alone from nine until college?! How could we possibly be expected to believe that Ellie is ignored after her dad's funeral if mom isn't there to be the focus of everyone's attention instead? (Likely answer: in Sagan's book the mom doesn't die, so they added the death but didn't think it through).

The alien is trimmed. He (it?) doesn't pretend to be dad. The exchange is more matter of fact.

Kitz, the government-knows-best man, is trimmed during the Senate hearing. His attack is toned down, making him less of a Hollywood caricature.

Hadden, the industrialist, is trimmed. Sadly, because I like Hurt's performance! His exposition of Ellie's childhood is trimmed. The extra information doesn't further the film, and it removes the question of how (and why?) Hadden got that family video. His death scene is cut. We already knew Hadden was terminally ill, seeing his death didn't further the plot. Kitz no longer mentions Hadden at the Senate, so the cutaway didn't make sense anymore.

The suicide pill is cut. The idea has been debunked by enough qualified people, including astronaut Lovell and several NASA directors, to not believe that astronauts were given these. It wasn't relevant to the further story (Ellie doesn't use or contemplate using it), and frankly I found the actor who presents the pill frustrating. His performance reminded me of Carl Sagan's style and delivery, not as an homage but as an unsuccessful "I want to be like".

Multiple trims for pacing. The test in Florida. The preparation for Ellie's launch. Fewer shots of her walking the gantry and strapping in. Less hesitation from the controller. Ellie's wormhole journey, and on the beach.

The film now ends on the cliffhanger of Kitz and Constantine talking about the 18 hours of static. Partial cliffhanger: we still get the reveal of the static but we no longer see Ellie go back to the same life as if nothing happened, nothing changed. That was a huge downer. To add insult to injury, when a schoolkid asked this now world-famous maybe-space traveller whether life exists out there, she DUCKED the question. Argh! Instead, the scene with the school kids is moved to before she discovers the signal (with corrected time card).

Several moments are trimmed where the filmmakers hit us over the head with obvious or annoying lines. Gone are "Does anybody speak German?", "Where can I buy a great dress?", one close-up of the religious terrorist.

One special effect is cut: Ellie's face coming out of her face during the wormhole journey. Yeah, that sounds weird but it's what they did. Anyway, the effect wasn't great and isn't needed for the story.

Epilogue: Carl Sagan talks about Contact, extraterrestrials, science and religion. Audio only over the end credits (excerpt from Studs Terkel interview 1985).
Cover art by lapis molari (DOWNLOAD HERE)

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Big thumbs up!

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