Sunday, September 3, 2017

Close Encounters of the Third Kind


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

This goes without saying, but Steven Spielberg is a master.

Since his theatrical debut, 1974's The Sugarland Express, Spielberg has captivated the minds of the young, the old, & everyone in between, with films like Jaws, the Indiana Jones franchise, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, The Color PurpleHook, the Jurassic Park francise, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, Lincoln, & Bridge of Spies.

Now, for its 40th anniversary, Columbia Pictures has re-released Steven Spielberg's 1977 sci-fi masterpiece, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This was my first time seeing this film. And it was such a glorious experience.

The film focuses on Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss), an electrical worker in Muncie, Indiana. He lives a mostly uneventful life with his wife, Ronnie (played by Teri Garr) & their three children: Brad (played by Shawn Bishop); Toby (played by Justin Dreyfuss); & Silvia (played by Adrienne Campbell).

One night, the power suddenly goes out in town, & Roy is called into work. While driving to work, the metal objects in his truck suddenly move around, & a strange craft appears overhead. It's a UFO. After returning home, he tells his family, but they don't believe him.

Another Muncie resident, Jillian Guiler (played by Melinda Dillon), lives with her son, Barry (played by Cary Guffey). The UFO appears by their house, & just like the metal objects in Roy's truck, Barry's toys suddenly start turning on & operating.

Meanwhile, French scientist Claude Lacombe (played by François Truffaut) & his American interpreter, cartographer David Laughlin (played by Bob Balaban) investigate the strange incidences of a pilotless flight in the Sonora Desert, a lost cargo ship in the Gobi Desert, & a five-tone sequence from a UFO in Northern India. The noise is sent to space, with the response being a set of coordinates, pointing to Devils Tower in Moorcroft, Wyoming.

Eventually, all three of these stories will converge at Devil's Tower, leading to an eye-opening discovery.

The cast is excellent. Dreyfuss does an excellent job of documenting his character's descent into madness after encountering the UFO. Truffaut, in his only English-language performance (& his only performance in a film he didn't direct), shines in every moment he's on the screen. And Dillon gives an amazing performance that was well-deserved of her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Steven Spielberg's direction is phenomenal. He re-defined the sci-fi blockbuster with this film, & his vision for this film is unparalleled. At every moment, his direction exhibits a strong, childlike wonder in the audience.

His screenplay is also amazing. The characters are extremely well-written & feel so human, & the plot is so intricate.

The cinematography by the late Vilmos Zsigmond is nothing short of spectacular. Every single shot is immaculate, & the way he frames the characters is amazing.

The editing by Michael Kahn is excellent. The film is perfectly paced & assembled, & with this film, Kahn jumpstarted his way into becoming the most awarded editor in film history.

The production design by Joe Alves & Daniel A. Lomino is excellent. The sets are so immersive, especially the designs of the UFO's.

The score by John Williams, the greatest film composer of all time, is amazing. His large-scale orchestral style of music is definitely on play here (notably the famous five-tone sequence), & it is so perfect.

The sound design is impeccable. The five-tone sequence, the sounds of the UFOs, & all the other sound effects are so indescribably amazing.

And the visual effects are so awe-inspiring, & way ahead of their time. They don't feel like the style of regular effects from 1977. And honestly, they don't feel that dated. The effects here, along with the visual effects from the other sci-fi masterpiece from 1977, Star Wars, redefined the way effects can be put into film.

This is truly one of the greatest films ever made. It's a groundbreaking, wondrous, & overall perfect cinematic experience.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was seen by me at the Emagine Macomb in Macomb Township, MI on Saturday, September 2, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 137 minutes, & it is rated PG for some intense sci-fi action, mild language & thematic elements.

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