Contact (Blu-ray)

Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) has fixed her gaze on the sky her whole life. When her SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project is canceled by the US Government, she goes in search of private funding and receives it from a secretive multimillionaire, S.A. Hadden (John Hurt). One night, she and her scientific team receive a signal from space that includes the blueprints of a mysterious machine. What does it do?

Contact is one of the best pure science-fiction films to come out of Hollywood in a long time with its theme of scientific fact versus religious faith. Matthew McConaughey delivers the finest performance of his career as the religious scholar who falls in love with Ellie, and the screenplay by James V. Heart and Michael Goldenberg—based on the book by Carl Sagan—is intelligently written with excellent character development and a satisfying payoff in the end.

Catalog releases from Warner are generally a mixed bag, but this is one of its better efforts. The image is a tad soft, especially in the CGI-intensive scenes and long sweeping shots, but close-ups offer reasonable detail without any video artifacts. Contrast is consistent throughout with a naturally warm color palette, and the black levels are inky and deep.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is superlative, especially given the age of the film, with first-rate frequency response and dynamic range. The first act is driven by dialog, which is natural and always intelligible, but once the mysterious machine is built, strap yourself in for one hell of a ride. The surround speakers are very active with discrete effects, and the room-shaking bass will certainly wake the neighbors, especially when Ellie drops into the vortex.

Unfortunately, the supplements are pretty boring unless you're a fan of commentary tracks, of which three are included. The first is by Jodie Foster, the second is from director/producer Robert Zemeckis and co-producer Steve Starkey, and the third is by visual effects supervisors Ken Ralston and Stephen Rosenbaum. Other features include four special-effects featurettes, a music-only audio track of Alan Silvestri's wonderful score, and two theatrical trailers.

I really love the themes explored in Contact, and the performances by all involved are excellent. The presentation is a worthy upgrade over the DVD—especially the audio—and is definitely worth a double-dip for previous owners. Highly recommended.