Projections - Movie Reviews

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters may be the best motion picture of the year.  It should not be missed.

The encounter which comes at film's end is the climax of an obsession instilled in numbers of people who are drawn to a rendezvous with aliens who seek a third kind encounter.

Director Steven Spielberg draws the main characters through an unknown but totally consuming compulsion toward a rendezvous of eminent importance, using a natural laccolith as a symbol similar to the smooth monolith in 2001.

The filming, photography and Douglas Trumbull, special effects are remarkable and beautiful.  Enhanced by sound which is sometimes overwhelming and disquieting other times quiescent and reassuring, they produce a realism which allows one to become engrossed in the compulsion of the characters, and their destiny.

Encounters is not presented as a usual science fiction plot, it emanates a sense of historical and evolutionary importance in the history of the Earth.  It may have the value of a profit.

Spielberg makes it all very real, from India to Muncie, Indiana to Wyoming, the sky and countryside are visions from a window rather than reflections on a screen.  High speed photography of clouds enclosing the alien ships is particularly realistic and ominous.  But the film is not frightening; its overwhelming and real.

When three year old Barry Guiler, played by Cary Guffey, awakes and finds his toys jumping and moving in his room there is no terror; he is fascinated and smiling.  Drawn by the compulsion of an encounter the little boy sets off across an open field and through the woods in the dead of night to meet the aliens.  Similarly, Roy Weary, Richard Dreyfuss, is obsessed after being bounced in his repair truck by an alien ship.  His obsession drives his family from their home as he attempts to determine the nature of the laccolith vision in his mind.  Dreyfuss performs with such intensity and skill he is totally believable.  He and Jillian Guiler, Melinda Dillon, are drawn together first by her son and then by their compulsion to find the symbolic laccolith.

The kids steal the acting honors, however; Cary Guffey has facial expressions that tell his story perfectly.  He plays his role beautifully as does Shawn Bishop, Dreyfuss's son who suffers over his father's apparent madness.

Francois Truffault, as Claude Lacombe, is not driven by the compulsion of the other characters, he is part of the scientific team that is aware of the coming encounter.  His excitement and the exuberance of his colleagues on the scientific team at Goldstone is reminiscent of Super Bowl Sunday in Miami with the Dolphins winning.

Spielberg presents terror and fear but moderates its effect.  This is particularly so in the scene in which the little boy is kidnapped by the aliens.  Through the use of brilliant lights and flying household objects a feeling of danger is established but little Barry shows no fear, he tells the aliens to come through the door and he reaches out for their contact.

There is a flaw, however; Spielberg attempts to introduce a conspiracy on the part of the United States Air Force to hide the entire event.  He attempts to convince the audience that three major TV networks are fooled by a phony gas scare near the contact point.  This trite injection of Watergate type secrecy is hard to believe and dates the picture, thereby reducing its place as a film of importance over a long period of time.  When hundreds of people are involved in the contact and the translation of previous messages it is fool hardy to accept that news of such magnitude would not leak to the public.

But, the flaw can be ignored and the film enjoyed; the special effects and sound are brilliant and the performances are excellent. The subject is treated in such a manner as to impart a true encounter and a significant historical moment. Close Encounters is an important and exciting film.  It will linger in your mind long after you leave the theater.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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