Jodie Foster's performance as a slightly geeky (but secrety rather attractive) scientist is spot on, especially her cheeky rendition of Sagan's own goofy accent, but the remaining characters are cartoonish and a bit theme-functional: for once, the bimbo is a bloke - that Matthew McConaughey's hokey priest is Foster's love interest and intellectual adversary fits nicely with the battle of intellect vs. emotion which is waged throughout the film, but as a credible character he just doesn't stack up. The same is true of Tom Skerrit's Big Bad Boss Who's Only In It For The Glory.
For all that, you're certainly left mulling over the notion of contact, in all its manifestations (you know, with little green men, with other human beings, with your lost father, with your spiritual side etc.) throughout, and given that the author of the screenplay was a thoroughly scientific and sceptical chap, the final message is one of surprising humility and irony.
Ostensibly the conflict is between science (which needs to know The Truth, whatever the religious consequences) and blind faith. But when the arch-sceptic finally establishes (...or does she?) her argument, can she prove it to a sceptical public? Quelle dilemma! Lesson learned!
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