Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind ★★★★★

If Alien is humanity's most pessimistic view of extra-terrestrial life and our relationship with it, Close Encounters is our most luminous beacon of hope and optimism. Only the most unimaginative among humankind could still argue there is no alien life out there in the countless trillions of livable planets, over 100 billion in just our Milky Way, of space's uncharted frontier. The math by itself proves the probability of us being truly alone is basically non-existent. And what are they like? What would they think of us (or what do they think of us already)? Are they grotesque creatures who would seek to destroy us? Would they be lovely to our eyes? Would they seek to know us?

Close Encounters of the Third Kind most of all offers a sort of cosmic prayer to answer that age-old question of mankind: are we alone in the universe? Its answer is a resounding no, and it's an answer here that is filled with wonder. The first half of the film focuses on two parallel stories: that of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a frustrated family man who has a strange encounter with a flying object one night that pulls down half the power grid in his town and gives him a sunburn on one side of his face, an encounter with which he becomes obsessed, and little Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey) and his mother Jillian (Melinda Dillon), who have several strange encounters with strange beings, one of them a frightening sequence where they try to get into the house and eventually kidnap Barry. Jillian and Roy meet by chance as Jillian attempts to find her son, and both of them are haunted by strange visions of a cliff-like shape that manifests in everything from paintings to shaving cream to Roy's mashed potatoes. Roy's wife grows alarmed of his increasingly bizarre behavior and leaves him, taking the kids to her mother's house--Spielberg manages to make these scenes a deft combination of confusion, mystery and hilarity. But Roy and Jillian both end up seeing something on TV that convinces them both that the shape they've been seeing isn't just their imagination--it's a sign.

Meanwhile a group of scientists are dumbfounded when aircraft from WWII that went mysteriously missing decades before seem to appear out of thin air in the Sonoran Desert. One old man tells them that "the sun came out last night, and it sang to him". There begin to be other phenomena throughout the world, including a rapt group of worshippers in India led by a guru that proclaim they heard a strange tonal phrase in five notes, and that it came from the sky. The scientists feverishly attempt to discover what the tonal phrase means, and it leads them to a most fateful encounter themselves.

I'll leave the end mostly unspoiled for the odd chance you, Dear Reader, haven't seen this, one of the greatest films ever made. But its an experience that is second to none, and it's final act is a wondrous thing to behold. We have many hopes and dreams for our kind; to learn what lies beyond our small blue planet is one of our greatest. This is a film that kindles the hope in us that there are beings out there who may be unimaginably different from us, but who may want to know us and who we, in turn, could know somehow. It's an endlessly beautiful experience, one that inspires you to look up into the night sky with rapt eyes and a full heart, and dream of the best the hovers up there, just waiting for us to make friends. Every human should watch this movie.

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