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I don’t know who designed that sound- the sound of the radio signal that is the crux of this whole movie- but if you’re reading this, you are an audio genius. I think that sound was the purest example of a sonic ‘hook’ this century. I really doubt that anyone will top that sound any time soon.

And I doubt that anyone will top the sheer cerebral elegance of this wonderfully multifaceted movie. I like movies with intelligent female protagonists, and Jody Foster fits the bill perfectly in this film. She’s one of the few Hollywood actresses I really admire- one who has brains and is not afraid to show them. Here, she gets to play the brainy Ellie, whose only wish as an orphaned girl is to have an antenna big enough to hear her dead father.

She gets to play with all sorts of big antennas- from the Aricebo "el radar" radiotelescope in Puerto Rico to the Very Large Array in New Mexico. She goes from earnest graduate student to Queen of the Desert- when That Sound fades into her headphones. Of course, all hell breaks loose, with various factions warring over whose project it is, and she gets rudely pushed aside. When the signal reveals itself to be a plan to build a strange machine, more controversy emerges as to who gets to actually ‘ride’ in this thing.

There is great dialogue concerning science versus religion, and several interesting subplots where the two elements collide, sometimes disastrously. We can see the hand of Carl Sagan here, whose upbringing totally precludes religion from the picture at all. Through all of this, Ellie prevails, sticking solidly to her private vision, and her persistence pays off. We see the child who is the mother of the woman- and see the woman claim her place in a lovely and moving scene.

The whole film is well crafted- and seems like two or three films braided into one. The blend of the fantastic with the already known is well done, and the coverage of the media frenzy is quite accurate- almost eerie. It is a film that will leave you thinking, ‘what if’, and wondering how our own crazy little mixed up world would handle the same compelling sound coming from the stars.

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