Director: Steven Spielberg
Runtime: 137 minutes
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): After an encounter with UFOs, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is in my mind Spielberg’s best Sci-Fi. It is a film filled with intrigue, suspense and incredible special-effects. Close Encounters is about madness, trust and family as much as it about aliens.
This is a film split over two narratives, which intertwine at several key moments. Firstly, we see a group of research scientists investigating strange appearances of items in oddly remote locations. Secondly, citizens of Muncie, Indiana start witnessing UFOs; we focus on Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) and Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) who become obsessed with the lights in the sky after separate incidents.
Roy’s slow descent into insanity is expertly handled, with less and less people believing him and his crazy theories as the film goes on. Both Roy and Jillian start seeing the same images, and it drives both of them mad. Nobody believes them, and at times, I’m sure they didn’t believe themselves either.
It’s smartly done, as I’m sure nobody would believe you if you said you saw a UFO. People would call you crazy, and I’m sure you’d start building sculptures out of your mashed potato. Close Encounters shows how obsession can drive families apart. Roy madness is too much at times and there is only so long everyone can put up with it. Some things break down trust, and I’m pretty sure that throwing bricks through your own window is probably a step too far for most.
Outside of the family, Close Encounters tells a good story about discovery and alien encounters. The science is interesting and everything has a slightly foreboding feel to it. It’s a slightly uneasy film, and I think this is down to the soundtrack as much as the subject matter. The soundtrack is excellent throughout, carrying with it the aforementioned foreboding atmosphere. However, Close Encounters isn’t a scary film, and it is fine for family viewing, except some may find the long runtime a tad daunting.
The runtime isn’t too bad, and the pay-off makes the length more than worth it, but there were certainly some slower parts in the film. Much like Jaws, Close Encounters gets so many things right, but there are a few times when a tighter cut could’ve done. Strangely, Close Encounters is full of product placement, which certainly took me out of the film more than a few times.
Thankfully, the film around the product placement is mostly excellent. Close Encounters mixes tension, brilliant effects and a great story together with an awesome soundtrack. It’s not perfect, but Spielberg’s family drama mixed with science fiction is a brilliant film, and one that comes recommended.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is ace. It’s slower sections and large amounts of product placement ensure the film isn’t perfect, but as far as family Sci-Fi comes this is definitely up there as a benchmark for others to try and reach.