joshhhh’s review published on Letterboxd:
A man drags his family out of bed in the middle of night and drives them to a road in an attempt to show them the odyssey of lights in the sky he witnessed hours before. Yet he is met with nothing. His wife and kids wander aimlessly in the road as he looks at the night sky wondering if they’ll show up again. His wife says to him, “I remember coming to places like this just to look at each other.” They begin to kiss. Yet, his eyes slowly drift back at the sky.
What makes Close Encounters of the Third Kind so special, is that it is so many things at once. Trapped inside a science fiction film is a drama about family being torn apart. What I love about it though is how people can perceive it. You could take out of it a tragedy man whose passion slowly drifts into the realms of madness, or you could see it as a possibly uplifting film about a character who against all odds travels to the ends of the earth to find what he’s been searching for the entire film. The first time I saw this was as a kid, and I remember being entranced by it. Spielberg has been there my whole life, he’s produced some of the most wonderful and impactful films I’ve ever seen, and there’s a reason why. When you watch a Spielberg film, it doesn’t feel like a product or passionless affair. Even some of his lesser regarded works (such as Bridge of Spies, which I happen to really like), there’s a sense of wonder to how he works the camera. You can always picture him sitting there smiling as he watches magic unfold. He loves making movies, and to anyone who wants to make movies it’s inspiring to watch. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is so perfectly paced and wonderfully executed, the editing provides enough detail and juggles many different themes and storylines at once, but it really pays off in the end. Somehow, it still is just a wonder of filmmaking. 40 years later, it still has the same effect. Pretty much every sci-fi film has taken from this; the idea of language and cultures being relevant in the encounter of extra-terrestrial beings is prominent in many modern movies, but no sc-fi film will ever get the scale and pure awe-inspiring nature of this one.
There’s no question that Jurassic Park will always be my favorite Spielberg film. But this, this might just be his greatest.