A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Do you think there are people on other planets?"
"I don't know. But if it's just us, it would be an awful waste of space."
-- Dialogue from "Contact"
You can hear an echo there of the hopeful, curious voice of the late Carl Sagan, who spoke optimistically of "billions of billions of stars," and argued that if life can exist at all (and it can), then it should presumably be found all over the universe. Sagan's novel Contact provides the inspiration for Robert Zemeckis' new film, which tells the smartest and most absorbing story about extraterrestrial intelligence since "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
It also makes an argument that sounds like pure common sense. Because the universe is so awesomely large, it would hardly be practical for alien beings to go zipping around it in spaceships, tracking down hints of intelligent life. Why wouldn't they simply set up an automated program to scan the skies for signals--and then auto-respond with instructions on how another race (ourselves, for example) could contact them? That would be faster, easier, cheaper and less of a waste of resources, since if we're not capable of following the instructions, we're not ready to meet them.