Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

TOP 100 FILMS: #56

After a strange encounter with a UFO, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) finds himself obsessed with a single image he can't figure out, but knows it holds the key for something important. Meanwhile the government is desperately trying to solve an alien mystery after a collection of military planes that have been missing for decades suddenly return.

As a self proclaimed sci-fi fanatic I think we can all agree Close Encounters is one of the granddaddy's to the genre. Filled with wonder, mysticism, and an odd tie to some level of realism, Spielberg's loving homage to the thrill of the beyond holds a special quality few other science fiction films can attain. Encounters delves into a variety of aspects of an alien arrival. The mystery, expectation, fear, and belief without understanding. The journey of Neary is not an easy one for us to watch. At times comical, heartbreaking, and difficult to attach to as he becomes obsessed with this image in his head, it's amazing to see the different trials he must overcome to save himself from this overwhelming need to know.

Though Spielberg's aptitude doesn't end there, as he goes to the other side of the coin, the governmental. Here represented predominately by translator Bob Balaban and french scientist Francois Truffaut. The two work together with other scientist in order to translate the codes used by the aliens in order to communicate their arrival coordinates. Of course none of this would work without great performances from each and every cast member. There's a sense of real humanity to the characters, they're easy to attach to, and call for us to want to see their journey to the end, without being false images of perfection. Dreyfuss is especially on his best game here, forced to play a sort of anti-hero, as we are driven into him by his obsession we are pushed away by his detachment from his family. It's never easy to make that sort of character work, especially when you're dealing with such an involved film as Close Encounters.

Of course Spielberg shows why he's lasted all these years with Encounters. Each new movement in story is a movement in film, with great effects, beautiful scenery, and lasting character moments. Granted even Spielberg can't take full credit for this film's long term success. The classic musical score, consisting of only a few notes, has become a true staple of the sci-fi genre. Every time I hear it, I'm immediately thrown back into the awe and mystery of this film. That sense of wonder lost on so many science fiction films concerned with immediate action than the fantasy realm it encompasses. Close Encounters works because it embraces all that science fiction films can without ever stepping out of bounds in favor of cheap thrills.

An awe inspiring science fiction film, with all the elements any fan of the genre could ever want, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a true genre classic.

1 better thoughts:

That Show Sucks said...

Would you believe that I've never seen this movie? I know, it's a terrible thing. I really need to get my act together and watch this.

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