Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Richard Dreyfuss Close Encounters of the Third Kind Directed by Stephen Spielberg
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Whether you’re a Steven Spielberg fan or not, this is one of those films that has dominated the science fiction film industry and set the bar incredibly high for visual effects. Cursed by some as "too slow", CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND is one of those movie’s that focuses on the main character so prominently (Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary), it is truly more a human story than anything else. There are no action sequences or shoot ‘em ray-guns. Instead, Close Encounters takes us into the pure character and eye-candy realm.

Re-released with Dolby Digital Sound and high grade digital visuals, this DVD should not be passed up by any film-o-phile.

The story starts out interestingly enough: Lost relics are "returning" in odd places: a squadron of WW II planes in the Sonoran Desert, a steamer ship in another desert. A group of scientists are sent out to try and discover where, how, and why these things suddenly reappeared after so many years. And why they’re all still in the same condition they were when lost decades ago. Strange things are afoot.

Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) is a family man who works for a local electric company in the Midwest. But when a chance encounter with a strange flying object happens on a lonely stretch of road, an image is implanted in Roy’s head. A strange mountainous image that he can’t explain. He feels compelled to sculpt it and sees the shape in everything (from mashed potatoes to shaving cream). His family leaves him. He loses his job. He’s ready to give up ever finding this place when he suddenly sees it on TV. Devils Tower in Wyoming. He must go there. He drives to Devils Tower only to find that the military has isolated the area after a "toxic spill." Not believing the military’s cover story, Roy risks everything to get to Devils Tower and find out what lay behind it. His life will be forever altered and aliens will swarm around him like fireflies toward a flame.

The beautifully colored spaceships (especially the "mother-ship") are stunning in their brilliance and scope. The inclusion of music, color and hand movements are also well pulled into the story, giving us a very reasonable understanding of how communication with a truly alien race might happen.

Spielberg and Dreyfuss apparently liked to work together (this was their second collaboration, the first being JAWS in 1975) and it’s a good pairing. The two seem to respect each other as actor and director. And although this was their second film together, it wouldn’t be the last. ALWAYS with Holly Hunter made it to film in 1989, too. But Close Encounters would be their first and only SF film.

Spielberg’s films have become the stuff of legends (the aforementioned JAWS, as well as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, E.T., THE COLOR PURPLE, JURASSIC PARK, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and MINORITY REPORT) but he has had a few "stinkers", too — most notably GHOST TRAIN, THE TERMINAL, and the remake-turned-flop WAR OF THE WORLDS.

Still, it’s nice to revisit a time when Spielberg was emerging as a Hollywood force, and Close Encounters may have been his science fiction pinnacle — some might argue that E.T. was better, but my money’s on this excellent film.

Click here for the Close Encounters of the Third Kind movie trailer!


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