Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
When people refer to 1970's Sci-fi, they usually think Star Wars. In the same year as George Lucas's box office smash, we had Close Encounters from Steven Spielberg. Here we see a great director implementing mechanisms that would be used in his later films like E.T and even in the new Super 8. It is clear now that Spielberg is an important director with such successful and well made films behind him. Close Encounters is a sci-fi film that has some brilliantly executed effects (for its time) on an adventure following America, and its encounter with extra-terrestrial life.
The first half of the film introduces the characters and the uproar caused by mysterious things happening, like a ship ending up in the middle of a desert. This half shows a few glimpses at spaceships, and the characters growing frightened, as well as going a little nutty. The second half involves trying to get in contact with the aliens, with the film's final 30 minutes being the best as we eventually see up close, the other life forms.
The effects, for the time, are quite revolutionary and seeing that big spaceship taking off at the end of the film definitely impresses you a little with all its little lights. The film overall had pleasing visual effects, and although the aliens look fake, there is a quality to them. There was something 'Spielbergian' about them.
The acting from Richard Dreyfuss and co. was superb and there is no deep study to them. They are simple, unsophisticated characters with a few goals in mind. Dreyfuss played the loving husband who encounters something so strange that he cannot comprehend it, and it soon makes him spiral to insanity (like the scene where he is playing with the mash potato and forms a landmark). An interesting appearance was director Francois Truffaut, who played a government official who we in the end of the film, planning the communication to the aliens. All simply divine performances make the film amusing and exciting.
Speaking of 'Spielbergian', the film is all that. Here, we can see Spielberg executing things he will use in later films such as E.T and Hook. Not to mention having that spirit and whimsy Spielberg is known for. Even the characterisation feels like a Spielberg film. The individual on a quest, the untrustworthy authorities and the lost boy, characters that are usually seen in his films. Spielberg may not be my number one, but he is definitely an asset to Hollywood of importance.
Close Encounters has been praised over the years for its thought-provoking plot and spectacular effects, but as much as it is significant, it is no masterpiece. You get lost in the film as it follows Joe spiralling into insanity, and the authorities figuring out a way to communicate with the extra-terrestrial life. The story is a little original (obviously inspired by 50's Sci-Fi), but it was simply not gripping.
The final 30 minutes of the film definitely make up for all the lack of action and it is probably why people love the film so much. The final ½ hour was exhilarating, energetic and fascinating. The film even got itself preserved in the National Film Registry, deeming it as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Overall, if you love Sci-fi and Steven Spielberg, Close Encounters offers interesting chills, comedy and whimsy that make it an excellent fantasy adventure.
My Rating: 8/10
Screenplay by Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips
Runtime: 137 Minutes
Distributed by Colombia Pictures
Budget: $19.4 Million
Also part of the national film registry.
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