One of the few really entertaining and intellectually engaging science fiction-dramas of the decade, this box-office hit from director Robert Zemeckis is also surprisingly emotional. A believable basic premise, solid character development, and an absorbing foray into the real-life political and social ramifications of a major scientific discovery keep the film bristling with energy; so do some kinetic special effects sequences not limited just to space flight, but which also include the digital insertion of President Bill Clinton into the proceedings. All of these elements effectively combine to make for what amounts to a thinking person's thrill ride. Only the vacant and oddly unengaged performance of Matthew McConaughey, playing what is typically the supportive, challenging female role, is a misfire, though it may not be the actor's fault. In a nutshell, McConaughey is called upon to play a sexy philosopher with wounded pride, a good ol' boy drawl, and a tendency to Bible-thump, who is somehow not too right wing and ends up in a powerful government post under a liberal president. Clearly, his is the film's most troubling character and could have used a little re-imagining. Still, McConaughey plays only a small supporting role that is the one distraction in an otherwise enjoyable and amazingly credible picture. It's truly a surprise that Contact (1997) works so well, based as it is on a novel by the late, great Carl Sagan, famed for his skepticism about interstellar travel and alien life forms. Maybe it takes a doubter to create a truly convincing and plausible story about such credibility-challenging subjects.