An astronomer (Jodie Foster) devotes her career to the possibility of extraterrestrial life in the universe. Receiving private funding, she and a small group of similarly inclined cohorts scan the universe for signs of life. One day, they receive an encrypted response and a giant leap for mankind begins. Based on the novel by Carl Sagan, this is an ambitious piece of science fiction cinema. The ideas are there but unfortunately, Robert Zemeckis' (the most prosaic of directors) direction lacks something. It doesn't have the sense of awe and wonder that Spielberg brought to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS or Cuaron to GRAVITY. Its screenplay is intelligent but it never takes off, it remains earthbound which is not what seeks in a science fiction film dealing with the cosmos. Alas, a missed opportunity. The film is lucky to have Foster in the lead role. She's one of the few major actresses who project an innate sense of intelligence, she sounds like she knows what she's talking about when she spouts off that scientific jargon. With Matthew McConaughey (in an underwritten role), Tom Skerritt, James Woods, John Hurt, Angela Bassett, Rob Lowe, William Fichtner, Jena Malone and Jake Busey.