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With: Peter Coyote (narrator), Jacques Vallee, Harry Reid, George Knapp, Christopher Mellon, Garry Nolan, John Podesta, Bill Richardson, Fife Symington
Written by: Marc Barasch, James Fox, Lance Mungia, Lee Speigel, Jacques Vallee
Directed by: James Fox
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 100
Date: 11/13/2020

The Phenomenon (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Guided by the smooth, authoritative narration of Peter Coyote, and with tons of interviews and archival footage, this documentary on the existence of UFOs and their cover-up is weirdly convincing.

Documentary filmmaker James Fox goes deep behind the scenes of many of the UFO sightings around the world since the late 1940s, and, especially, government attempts to cover up and silence all of it. Pilots and groups of schoolchildren describe the same phenomena all over the world, and through the decades. They see metallic, disc-shaped crafts that are capable of incredible speeds, and changing directions on a hairpin. Others tell stories of being approached by officials and told to keep quiet, or else. Over the years, some politicians have tried to get UFO-related files declassified, but to no avail. Are alien visitors real, or is it all an elaborate fraud?

Fox has been making films on this subject for decades, and The Phenomenon is so professional and journalistic that — despite its dramatic "re-creation" footage — it may leave you shocked, or shaking your head in disbelief, or, perhaps even believing in alien visitors. It's interesting to hear interviewees from so many years and so much distance apart — especially a haunting encounter that occurred in 1994 in Zimbabwe — describe virtually the same details again and again.

Of course, repetition does not necessarily make something true, but The Phenomenon is wise enough to turn its focus on history, the first photographs, the first sighting of "little men," the rise and fall of the Air Force's "Project Blue Book," and the ongoing efforts of researcher Jacques Vallee (who was the basis of Francois Truffaut's character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind) to gather his own data and Senator Harry Reid, who has tried to have government information declassified. The movie ultimately makes the case that enough evidence exists that it would make sense to continue the study, which also raises the question: why would anyone want to cover it up?

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