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Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) is a science-fiction movie about UFOs, written and directed by Steven Spielberg. It stars Richard Dreyfuss, Fran├žois Truffaut, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, and Cary Guffey. more...

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The movie has visual effects by Douglas Trumbull and a score composed by John Williams.

Close Encounters was perhaps the most important science fiction movie up to that point to introduce benign or even kind aliens, a sharp departure from the 'evil monster' style of most earlier films. It popularised a number of motifs, most of which were drawn from earlier (and purportedly genuine) UFO encounters: alien abduction, small and thin aliens ("greys"), and UFOs covered in lights rather than the disc shapes more popular in the 1950s and 1960s, and so on. (The moral contradiction between the aliens' "kindness" and the forced abductions they conduct is left unexplored).

The movie has been revised numerous times, notably for a 132-minute "special edition" reissue in 1980 and again for a 137-minute "collector's edition" in 1988. The Special Edition features several new character development scenes, the discovery of a lost ship, the Cotopaxi, in the Gobi Desert, and a view of the inside of the mothership. The interior of the mothership is deleted from the Collector's Edition (Spielberg added this scene as a concession to be allowed to make the Special Edition. He decided it was a mistake and removed it in the later edition).

Plot Overview

The movie plot has three basic threads:

  • A group of scientific researchers including Lacombe (Truffaut) and Laughlin (Balaban) investigate UFO reports worldwide, and discover a lost squadron of World War II aircraft (see Flight 19) in a Mexican desert.
  • Indiana electrical lineman Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) experiences a close encounter of the second kind (a sighting that leaves physical evidence) and thereafter becomes obsessed with aliens, to the great dismay of his family. He begins making endless models of a distinctive mountain or hill - a place he has never actually seen, and with which he is unfamiliar. At one point, he and his wife attend a meeting featuring both patronizing and skeptical government officials, and an archetypal wacko ("I saw Bigfoot once!")
  • Jillian Guiler (Dillon) witnesses the UFOs as well, then loses her son Barry (Guffey) to aliens who come to her home. It turns out that she has also been obsessed with the mental picture of a unique-looking mountain.

After Neary's increasingly bizarre conduct causes his family to abandon him, he sees the feature he has been modelling on a television news show. It turns out to be Devils Tower in Wyoming. Jillian Guiler sees the same broadcast. He and others with similar experiences obsessively head towards the site. He meets up with Guiler en route. Elsewhere in the world, the pace of alien activity is increasing. Claude Lacombe (a character based on Jacques Vallee, played by Truffaut) investigates a host of weird occurrences along with other United Nations experts. The obsessives and the experts eventually meet up at Devils Tower. The United States Army evacuates the area after spreading false reports that a train wreck has spilled highly dangerous nerve gas. Neary and Guiler persist, and eventually see dozens of spacecraft appear, culminating with appearances from extraterrestrials, and the return of people who'd been abducted, including Guiler's young son Barry. At the end of the film, the aliens take Neary on board their ship and take off for the stars. Many people believe that the aliens took Neary and a group of specially trained Astronauts aboard but this is incorrect - they only took Neary (Collection Edition)


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