Schmaltzy sci-fi drama starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, which shows promise in the first half, but spirals out of control into a rather shitey puddle of mud. It has the same stink as Robert Zemeckis's other blockbuster, Cast Away (2000, with Tom Hanks). I dread to see what he'll do to Beowulf: in pre-production at the time of writing, but expected for release in 2007. Saying that, I wasn't intending to watch this movie, but it dragged me into its vortex (or wormhole, as Foster would claim).
Foster plays Ellie Arroway, who as a kid discovered the wonder of long-distance contact playing around with her shortwave radio, under the guidance of Super Dad (David Morse, who looks a bit like Russell Crowe - see the post above). The financial plug is pulled on her scatty research into music from the stars and she scraps around looking for moolah backers. Just as she's taking a flakey, an anonymous donor (John Hurt) agrees to support her, setting up the proposterous turn half-way through the movie, from where it's all downhill. Uncannily, just as the green-papered juice is about to be drained again, Ellie and her team of researchers discover a signal transmitting a beacon of prime numbers and a video of Adolf Hitler, which reveals plans to build a Big Machine that will send a human to make contact with whoever sent the signal. (There were no wee green men, but they did have two legs and walk like an Egyptian.)
The pace is slick (McConaughey beds her on their second encounter), but the debate between science and faith is rather staid. Someone should have pointed out that scientists may seek the truth, but just like faith, their practice is based wholly on intangible precepts, which are taken as givens. By the end, the script is swimming, almost drowning, in its own schmaltz. And that wormhole portal sequence is such a rip-off from the Stargate shebang of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The movie's arc is so Hollywoodized it's Hollowood. You could plug almost any story into these basic plot dynamics.
Nugget: yawned, laughed, but stayed to watch it, even though one could and should have been reading.