While there is no such thing as a “perfect” movie, there are some that come close. For me personally, 1977’s science-fiction thriller/drama “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is one of the few that I consider to be almost perfect.
An early entry from legendary director Stephen Spielberg, the film has aged magnificently well in the 43 years since its release. The special effects were astounding for 1977, and surprisingly hold up after all this time. The main reason for this is because Spielberg caught a lot of flack for how “fake” the shark in 1975’s “Jaws” looked. While still being a critical and monetary success, Spielberg wanted to prove that he could do special effects better than what he gave audiences with “Jaws,” and did so right away with his first picture following its release: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
In the world of science-fiction – both real and fantasy – there are 4 types of alien encounters. The first kind is simply just the visual sighting of an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO). An encounter of the second kind is physical evidence. An encounter of the third kind is contact. An encounter of the fourth kind is abduction.
Though titled “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the movie covers all four experiences.
Something is happening around the planet. Strange lights and objects in the sky, along with strange sounds emanating from the heavens above, are happening all around the globe. Governments are attempting to cover up the unexplained activity, while scientists are trying to figure out what exactly is happening.
Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is a power company repairman in Muncie, Indiana. On the night of a massive power-outage, Roy is sent on a wild-goose chase to try and pinpoint where the outage started. While en-route, he experiences something unexplained in the sky. From there, Roy’s world drastically begins to collapse around him as he attempts to learn more about what he saw, and how he can prove it was real. Simultaneously, on a nearby farm, a single-mother named Jillian (Melinda Dillon), and her young son Barry, are being targeted by something sinister. Scary lights, unexplainable sounds, toys and electronics coming to life all on their own…what they are experiencing is wildly different from the other activity happening nearby. Drawn to each other, and mysteriously drawn to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, Roy and Jillian come together to find out the truth about what is happening.
Though classified as a science-fiction movie, I have always felt the film is more of a thriller/drama. Spielberg, just as he did with the shark in “Jaws,” relies on the “unseen” to draw up scares and intensity. The less-is-more aspect works wonderfully, as you the viewer are experiencing only what the characters on screen experience. The audience gets answers only as the characters are provided answers. The soundtrack/score is one of John Williams best ever, and the 5-tone “song” the aliens use as one of their main forms of contact is an earworm that will stay in your head long after the credits roll.
Despite its length – and despite being slow at times – the two-plus hour runtime does not feel as such. The movie is a whirlwind of close encounters, scientists scrambling for proof, and everyday citizens looking for answers. It all blends together into an intense drama that is simply excellent. Even if you are not a fan of alien-related things, the movie should be given a chance based on its performances, and mystique regarding what exactly is happening.
“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is rated PG for language and intense scenes, with a runtime of two hours and eighteen minutes. It is available to borrow from PPL on DVD.