"Contact" (1997) examines the intersection of faith and science. It tells a great story and allows for meaningful interaction between characters without being too preachy.

"Ellie, still waiting for E.T. to call?"  David Drumlin

"Contact" (1997) examines the intersection of faith and science. It tells a great story and allows for meaningful interaction between characters without being too preachy.

Based a novel by the late Carl Sagan, "Contact" focuses on Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), a scientist working in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence program, otherwise known as SETI. 

Her boss is David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt), a man who has traded scientific research for a bureaucrat's desk. Drumlin doubts the value of Ellie's work, but will take credit for it when the opportunity arises. 

And opportunity comes in the form of a video transmission sent back to earth from a planet light-years away called Vega. Embedded in the video are instructions for building a pod, of sorts, that will allegedly allow a person to travel to Vega. 

With this, the stage is set for Drumlin and Arroway to compete for the mission, where the movie's real journey begins.

Within the film is a relationship between Ellie and Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey), who describes himself as "a man of the cloth without the cloth." He's actually a religious author who's after one thing: the truth.

Characterizations aside, "Contact" is a thought-provoking film. It asks hard questions like: What does it mean to believe in transcendence? What is faith about? Are we alone in the vastness of the universe and, if not, who is out there?

Ellie and Palmer talk about life's meaty issues—love, evidence, life, faith—and their thinking and positions evolve. So their depictions resound for at least one compelling reason: they disagree with each other, yet still make room for relationship. 

"Contact" is well over two hours, giving its characters time to bump into each other, dialogue, debate and really discuss issues raised within the story. And at stake is nothing less than how we understand and reconcile faith and science.

The DVD is particularly worthy, as one might expect from director Robert Zemeckis, whose other films ("Forrest Gump," "Castaway") make excellent DVDs as well. This DVD contains audio "commentary" tracks by Jodie Foster, Robert Zemeckis and others, as well as features on the special effects.

Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.

Buy "Contact" on DVD!

But "Contact" on VHS!

MPAA Rating: PG for some intense action, mild language and a scene of sensuality

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Eleanor Arroway: Jodie Foster
Palmer Joss: Matthew McConaughey
Michael Kitz: James Woods
S.R. Hadden: John Hurt
David Drumlin: Tom Skerritt
Kent Clark: William Fichtner
Ted Arroway: David Morse
Rachel Constantine: Angela Bassett
Richard Rank: Rob Lowe

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