Daxtreme’s review published on Letterboxd:
I liked this movie the first time I watched it but this 2nd time I think it clicked even more. I also like that the filmmakers don't take us for idiots. Zemeckis' direction is a bit uneven but he never loses sense of what's important to the story.
The real highlight though remains Jodie Foster. Her character is a bit too intense but she sells it so well it works. Incredible actress.
Now I think this movie really is about opposition, duality. Opposition of belief, contrast of imagery.
*** SPOILERS START NOW***
Opposition like Ellie and Palmer having completely contrary beliefs... which eventually meet at the opposite end when the story concludes. Ellie still doesn't believe in god, which Palmer doesn't understand, but she believes in something. Science and meaning so far removed from our own understanding that no one except she, who has lived it and can conceptualize it, can grasp.
And that Palmer understands. He understands from his own experience, because that's, in a way, like believing in God. Opposite beliefs, similar understanding joining together at the opposite ends.
In fact, the aliens almost "play God" with other species in the universe, which is quite interesting as well.
Duality too like the committee choosing religious people as the ones who will be representing humanity's values to the aliens, to then having a religious fanatic blow up their structure and foiling the attempt -- and killing dozens of people in doing so. Ironic, but lines up with the theme of opposition/duality recurrent in this movie. The duality of religion being seen both as a good and a bad thing in this case.
Opposition of belief again like the people at the hearing at the end saying she had no proof whatsoever of her experience, lynching her for it even, as if they weren't largely religious people themselves and hadn't previously barred her from the expedition for not believing in God... which she did because she has no proof of his existence.
Duality of imagery as seen when the back-up machine is being presented. Humanity's last hope at contact, emitting a shining light in the middle, but surrounded by dark grey mountains and ominous clouds reminiscent of Mordor. That would represent Ellie's experience in the machine compared with everyone outside and their reaction toward it (resentment, skepticism, incomprehension).
The duality of her dad being dead while she shares the experience of first contact with an image of him.
Ellie achieves a new understanding of life and human condition as her "mentor" Mr. Hadden dies.
There would be more, no doubt, but I wasn't taking notes during the movie. The strongest opposition in the movie remains the science vs religion belief system.