What can be said about Steven Spielberg? He has this way with movies that can only be described as “immensely imaginative.” You always know when you’re watching one of his movies just by the grand scope matched only by equally memorable characters. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was Spielberg’s second blockbuster after the mega hit Jaws, and further solidified Spielberg’s career.
The movie mysteriously begins with a team of investigators finding the planes from Flight 19 which was lost over the Bermuda Triangle in 1944. These investigators, led by Claude Lacombe (Fransçois Truffaut), begin piecing together that extraterrestrial involvement is highly likely and start a process of deciphering their messages in hopes of more advanced communication. The other story involves suburban father and line worker, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), who becomes obsessed with discovering the alien’s secrets after a chance encounter with their ships one late night.
Any nerd or film buff will tell you that this is one of the best science fiction films ever to be made. After the massive amount of alien invasion movies of the 1950s and 1960s, it was probably nice to see a new kind of alien film where the visitors aren’t seeking global invasion, but more interested in scientific curiosity. It also tells a more human story. One where the world isn’t able to fully comprehend what’s happening without going into a state of panic and military control.
Speaking of human, Richard Dreyfuss gives a stand out performance. Spielberg said that he wanted someone in touch with the kid inside them, and there isn’t a bigger kid than Dreyfuss. His childlike excitement and fascination with the UFOs is a marvel to watch. Never is he really scared, just confused and excited. François Truffaut also deserves a lot of credit for breaking his language barrier and learning some English for his part. When these two interact together, although it is only a few times, it is natural and sincere.
This is also a beautiful movie with special effects done by Douglas Trumbull, who previously worked with Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumbull truly outdoes himself with a grand scale finale featuring multiple UFOs and one enormous mothership that is a colorful light show of red and blue, coupled with John Williams’ musical score. It is a scene not easily forgotten and one of the most iconic scenes in film history as the ship slowly rises above Devil’s Tower.
Spielberg has crafted a fantastic picture with themes of science, religion, peace, and government cover ups that he has revisited to improve many times. It answers the age old question and shows that we are not alone. I found it easy to compare this movie to E.T., a movie that I have always disliked. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the far superior film with adult content that never loses its grasp on childlike awe. Forget phoning home, and instead enter the ship for intergalactic drama.