Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban
Released: 1977 / Genre: Science-Fiction / Country: USA / IMDB
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One of Hollywood’s most renowned and celebrated sons Steven Spielberg brings the world one of the best sci-fi films of the 1970s. Richard Dreyfuss is Roy Neary, a disillusioned suburbanite whose struggle to maintain the American Dream is thrown into disarray when he, like many others, is drawn to the mysterious goings-on of a possible visitation by aliens. Strange radar communications are occurring, planes and boats that disappeared decades ago are being found, lights are appearing in the sky, and the government seems hell-bent on covering up whatever is causing the disturbances. But, Neary is determined to find out just what is happening. Is he going mad or is he about to have a Close Encounter of the Third Kind?
If this isn’t Spielberg’s best film, then it most certainly is his second greatest achievement behind Jaws. It could be looked at as a level of cinematic accomplishment that Spielberg could never re-imagine, an easy comparable for his critics to endlessly debate with their most hated of his movies like Schindler’s List.
If what tainted his film about the holocaust was his Manichean view of the world, at least in part, then this certainly doesn’t hinder CE3K. For me, it’s an example of a kid’s movie made entirely for adults. It recreates that sense of wonder, that fearful, guarded interest into the unknown, that only really works if one still believes that the unknown (the bogeyman, the werewolf, extraterrestrials, Father Christmas) still exists. Spielberg places the audience within the world of the few remaining dreamers – those that still cling to the idea: we’re not alone.
You can see that Spielberg is embodied in Richard Dreyfuss’ character, much like he was Elliot in E.T. There is the disenchantment with the American Dream – a feeling that his children just want to rebel and his wife is only interested in a tidy kitchen – a sort of apprehensive precursor to eighties yuppies and materialism. It’s as if the important things in life don’t matter (much like the thought-process of a child), the only thing that needs worrying about is the monster that hides under your bed. The dreamers dare question that not everything is set in stone and their reality has not been made for them.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is simply one of the best science-fiction movies ever made. If it doesn’t settle the argument that Spielberg is one of Hollywood’s true greats, nothing will.
Review by Daniel Stephens