In COSMOS (2019), three astronomers are amazed when the newest member of their team catches radio signals of a potentially alien origin. This film of first contact was surprisingly fun if severely clunky due to its limitations.
A first feature made without any budget, COSMOS pulls off its intention with a simple, bare bones setup, a lot of heart, and some heavy borrowing from Stephen Spielberg’s directorial style. The film begins with two scientists and an engineer driving to a remote location in the woods, where they can view the heavens. Each has a different project he’s working on either personally or as a job. There’s some friction between the three, as two of them had a previous falling out, and the third is a newcomer to the group.
All night, they sit in a car manning their equipment, which honestly for us nerds out here is fun to watch, and then Mike, the new guy, catches a seemingly impossible radio signal. On a lark, he radios back, and then, again impossibly, gets a response in a short time. Suddenly, the three men realize they might actually be looking at a first contact possibility. With numerous ups and downs, they work out their issues and work together to capture this history-making communication.
There’s a lot to like here: the likeable characters (particularly Mike and the actor playing him, who does a lot of the heavy lifting), the nerdy astronomy equipment, the realistic process of trying to figure out what they’re listening to and what it means. The film has some first-film issues, though. The first contact is fun but not as exciting as in, say, the film CONTACT, which admittedly set a pretty high bar for this sort of thing; the men are so slow to realize what they’re dealing with that while very realistic, it drains some of the catharsis out of it. Another issue is the resolution of the interpersonal conflicts, which is delivered with dialog that is overly emotionally precise, a lot of exposition, and heavy-handed music and camera shots borrowed from Spielberg. The last issue is the climax is built on a long string of ridiculous things going wrong.
These things kept me from loving it, but I liked it a ton for what it is, which is a simple, realistic take on how first contact might be achieved.