There are so many alternate versions of Steven Spielberg’s UFO classic that I’m not about to start the painstaking process of trying to sort out which version I watched this time: What really matters is that, in my opinion, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is the best UFO movie ever made and one of the best science-fiction entries imaginable. Spielberg’s deft touch with homey domesticity contrasted with otherwordly intrusion is on full display here: Much like “E.T.” and “Poltergeist” (which was directed by Tobe Hooper but has an evident Spielbergian vibe), Spielberg roots his fantastical story in the mundanity of the suburban everyday, including the complexities of married life and the inherent messiness of raising children, so when the UFOs start disrupting the characters’ daily routines, the audience is right there with them thanks to an impressively detailed, lived-in banality that’s suddenly taken over by the fantastical. Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon and Teri Garr deliver knockout performances as suburbanites finding themselves both excited and threatened by the incoming alien visitors, all in different ways, and the score by John Williams adds an operatic grandiosity to the proceedings that’s matched by Spielberg’s gift for crafting palpable intimacy out of relatable empathy. Add in some of the best special effects that money can buy, not to mention a director most comfortable working with the intricacies of large scale blockbuster moviemaking, and you’ve got an effective, moving and downright eerie populist classic that has stood the test of time (thanks in part to relatively regular remastered versions).
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)