“Contact” is a very exciting movie about the search and eventual discovery of extraterrestrial life. Jodie Foster plays Ellie Arroway, a young scientist obsessed with the search. She delivers a great performance, as does Matthew McConaughey as Palmer Joss, her religious boyfriend. I mainly like the film for the storyline, however, which is based on the fictional novel of the same title by Carl Sagan.
The movie concerns Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), a young scientist interested in contacting extraterrestrial civilizations. Despite repeated efforts of the director to shut down the project and cancel her research, she eventually discovers an unmistakable signal from an intelligent source from the nearby Vega star system, consisting of the first several prime numbers. After investigating this signal further, others now working on the project discover a more complex message embedded in the first one, which turns out to be a video recording of Adolf Hitler’s opening speech at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. At first the researchers are horrified, but Ellie realizes that this was probably the first televised message powerful enough to be picked up by an alien civilization. Upon further investigation, a third layer of the message is discovered, this one consisting of thousands of pages of at first undecipherable code. The billionaire industrialist S.R. Hadden (John Hurt) finally steps in and shows Ellie how to decipher the message, which turns out to be a blueprint of a machine, whose purpose is unknown.
Eventually the team learns part of the purpose of the machine, which includes a seat for a human passenger, presumably to take that person to Vega. This results in a huge international effort to build the machine, whose construction is begun at Cape Canaveral, Florida. A religious fanatic suicide bomber ends up sabotaging the project by destroying the machine. Fortunately, another identical machine is secretly being built in Japan, and Ellie is invited to take the journey.
Once completed, Ellie boards the machine, which begins operating. It takes her through a series of wormholes in which she witnesses some fantastic events. Finally she is taken to what looks like a familiar beach, where she is visited by an alien who looks like her father when she was a child. The alien explains to Ellie some of the details of his civilization as well as the wormhole transit system which brought her there.
Shortly thereafter, she is returned home. Unfortunately, she arrives at nearly the exact moment that she left and the crew outside think the machine malfunctioned. To add insult to injury, an 18-hour recording of the trip she’d taken went blank. Thus, the consensus is that the project was a hoax provided by Hadden, who now resides on the Mir space station. However, once the presidential advisors realize that there was 18 hours of static recorded in what should have been a fraction of a second, they decide to continue her SETI research, though she cannot offer any proof of her discovery.