By John H. Foote
With two Academy Awards three years apart, one might think Jodie foster has had enough in terms of accolades. My attitude has always been if they are deserving, nominate them, award them, who cares if they have two or 20, give them what they deserve. Foster was first nominated for her work as a child hooker in Taxi Driver (1976), and 12 years later won her first Oscar as a rape victim in The Accused (1988). Just three years later she astounded audiences, critics and the Academy as FBI trainee Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), winning one of the five major Oscars the film took. Three years later she was nominated again for Nell (1994) which won her the first ever Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress and rave reviews.
And then three years later she astonished us again as Ellie, a young scientist searching the stars and cosmos for intelligent life.
And she finds it.
From deep space comes a signal, an urgent, near scream of a signal, seeming to cry out for help. Ellie hears it and the process of contact with this alien race begins. Plans are sent to earth to build some sort of spacecraft and worldwide choices are made as to who will go. Ellie is not chosen because she does not believe in God and answers the committee honestly so. But the first craft is destroyed by a terrorist group and all of earth believes the chance to make contact is ruined. However Mr. Hammond (John Hurt) the benefactor to Ellie’s work has copied the plans and built his own craft off the sea of China and says near comically to Ellie “wanna take a ride?”
And she does.
The craft does not explode into the sky but falls instead into the series of worm holes in space that sling shot Ellie to the edge of the universe and beyond. Staring out the window in the vastness of space she weeps, saying aloud, “they should have sent a poet” as she knows her words will never fully capture what she is seeing, the sheer beauty of it all. Finally at her destination she lands on a beach not unlike Florida where she grew up and sees a shape moving toward her, evolving into a shape she recognizes, it is her father who died when she was a little girl. She knows the aliens have downloaded her memories and this is not her father, but the image relieves her, makes it easier. She learns that other races have been coming here for centuries, and now that earth has made contact so will they. Ellie returns having been gone in the craft hours, but on earth just seconds have past, and only a few people believe her.
She knows though and continues to listen to the skies.
Foster’s keen intellect comes into play in this film and there was not a scene that I did not believe her, she was superb throughout. The film was a massive hit at the box office and was well reviewed and Foster’s performance was specifically mentioned time and time again. The Best Actress Oscar winner that year was Helen Hunt in As Good as It Gets (1997) and Foster blew her away, as she did all the nominees.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.