Too Close for Comfort: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Review
|The theatrical poster for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.|
Directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1977 to overwhelming success,
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is possibly one of the best-known science fiction films. It became very influential in pop-culture at the time, and was rather revolutionary for showing a relatively benign race of aliens, not here to conquer or destroy, but to build up a friendship with us. It combines elements of wonder, horror, mystery and drama to bring us a really interesting, if slow, story about a man trying to get answers after he himself has a close encounter with a UFO. Spielberg's direction, the masterful special effects and John William's beautiful score all combine to create a coherent and gorgeous film.
STORY: 4/5 Stars. Close Encounters has a very intriguing plot full of mystery, wonder, and suspense. The pacing, however, can be slow, and the film tends to drag in some areas, but in the moments where the ships appear and the plot continues, I found myself unable to look away. It opens with a scene in the Sonoran Desert, where French scientist Claude Lacombe and American former cartographer and Lacombe's translator, David Laughlin, are investingating a strange discovery: Flight 19, a squadron of Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers from 30 years ago. These planes had been missing until now, and strangely they are completely intact, but no pilots were found with them. Later on, at an air-traffic control center in Indianapolis, controllers watch and listen as a pilot scarcely avoids a collision with a UFO. The pilot refuses to report the UFO sighting however, despite the encounter.
|Lacombe and Laughlin investigate the sudden reappearance of the missing 1940s planes.|
|Roy's truck is lit up by the bright lights of the UFO.|
|Barry is abducted by the alien visitors.|
|The alien mothership appears!|
ACTING: 4.5/5 Stars. The actors in this film all do a tremendous job portraying their characters, and all of them have great depths of emotion. Richard Dreyfuss is great as Roy, especially when depicting his near-maniacal obsession with UFOs and the strange mountainous shape he keeps seeing in his mind. Melinda Dillon plays her character Jillian Guiller very well. You really get a sense that she truly cares for Barry, and how she portrays her character's terror as the aliens abduct her son is a really moving and suspenseful moment thanks to her acting. Even three-year-old Cary Guffey did well as Jillian's son Barry. Again, the scene where he is abducted, he has the complete opposite reaction to his mother when the aliens arrive, he is overjoyed and thinks they're playmates. This really sells a sense of innocence that a young child should have.
SPECIAL EFFECTS: 5/5 Stars. Perhaps the film's strongest attribute is its use of masterful special effects by Douglas Trumbull. This film has aged really well, and that's definitely because of the wonderful visual effects. Real miniatures are used for the spaceships, and they are all things of beauty, wonderfully unique in their design, and covered in flashing lights of every color, these spaceships are anything but boring. The scenes in which they appear really highlight the sense of wonder they bring, as these are not menacing spaceships armed to the teeth. The aliens, designed by Carlo Rambaldi,are depicted in a few ways. Based on the Greys and having different heights and proportions to incorporate varying descriptions from people who reportedly encountered UFOs and aliens, there were a couple of different puppets. A majority of the aliens were small, and were depicted by young children wearing alien costumes, and the effects still hold up very well, as they still look close to real. The bright lights from the ships help cover any flaws that might otherwise be visible. Overall, the special effects really made this film for me.
|A spaceship rushes down the street, police (offscreen) in hot pursuit.|
|Three small UFOs arrive at the landing ship, showcasing their stunning, colorful lights|
|The Mothership, as seen in the film's climax. Layered like a cake and covered in pointed antennae and flashing lights, it truly is a breathtaking piece of miniature-work.||.|
|One of the Grey Aliens at the end of the film.|
ENJOYABILITY: 4/5 Stars. Overall, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is definitely a crowd-pleaser, and it's easy to see why. While lacking in exciting action and destruction, and being a film with a bit of a slow pace, it more than makes up for that with its sense of mystery, wonderment, and drama. Its special effects also add to the joy of watching it, and the actors do a wonderful job of playing their characters. Everything from the score, to the bright special effects, and the refreshing take on the alien plot, are aspects that make this film pretty close to being a masterpiece. Spielberg is a truly great director, and this film is definitely one of his best in the sci-fi genre. Truly a classic, and while it's not a personal favorite of mine, it's definitely a really well-made movie that I think virtually anyone can enjoy. Close Encounters is at its best when it's a spectacle, and there are many moments when it is. Highly recommended.