Familiar But Ambitious: Review on Contact

I have never been an enthusiast of Robert Zemeckis’ work, I found his style to be too familiar and not as effective as his biggest influence, Steven Spielberg; however, I cannot say that I am incapable of appreciating his works, Back to the Future has swept me away since my initial viewing as a young adolescent. I have decided to widen my range a little, and search on some of his other works, hoping that his more mature entries would provide a similarly satisfying experience. I could have easily came back and watched Forrest Gump or Flight, hoping to find appreciation for these underwhelming features, but I decided to take on something fresh, where I am unable to completely predict on its outcome, fuelling that excitement of anticipation and curiosity.

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Contact carries that trademark sentimentality that is found in all of Zemeckis’ films, and though it shows little restraint, it does however cherish it in ways that never dampens the film’s themes and plotting to captivate its audience; it understands its goals, it attempts to create something personal and thought-provoking, relying on the most empathetic element within us to grip our attention and invest in its characters. Contact is a parallel effort to Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where his personal beliefs and deeply rooted emotions are found all throughout, attempting to create something that would find our deepest depths and hopes to change us.

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Although unlike Spielberg’s auteur effort, Zemeckis’ stamp never feels creative and powerful enough to generate the same experience within me when viewing Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Many of its earlier aspects are character development that constructs itself far too neatly, with heroes and villains standing on their respective shades, failing to create that middle ground that would evoke a sense of sincere humanity in their motives. Its manipulation comes off as far too palpable, unwilling to let genuine ambiguity shape my perspective towards these characters.

Thankfully, however, the film takes on a far too ambitious and fascinating plot, and touches on wonderful and life-affirming themes that constantly held my attention; I was able to let myself go by the time it reaches its anticipating climax, where intelligence and emotion hold in hand, allowing such a penetrating journey that allows us to empathise the experience endured by our protagonist. The climax alone should be enough to convince that this is certainly a special entry into Zemeckis’ filmography, an experience that feels so thoughtful and original that it becomes almost a necessary viewing.

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The film features strong performances from its cast, although slightly overbearing during certain moment through Zemeckis’ direction, and Alan Silvestri’s score soars in moments of emotional heights; all present to support the film’s thematically rich storyline. It may not be a perfect film, but it is a formidable entry by the director.

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