“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” builds towards a dramatic alien encounter on top of Devil’s Tower Monument in Wyoming. Two groups converge on the location: the military, and a small number of people who have been psychically informed of the encounter through earlier UFO contact.
The government seeks to clear the surrounding area of all civilians by planting a pernicious rumor that they accidentally released a nerve toxin from a derailed train shipment. The cynical nature of this act is linked to a need for absolute control. They go to great lengths to maintain the facade of the situation, killing local livestock, and wearing gas masks when non-personnel are around, only to remove them as soon as the coast is clear.
Spielberg puts special effects and technical gizm-o-dry to good use, with plenty of bright lights and ooh-aahs to lift the veil back and restore our sense of wonder at the nature of existence. It feels good to see the (word) cynical Government men get their comeuppance. “Scientific proof,” tangible evidence, they demand. So Richard Dreyfuss removes his gas mask and informs us, “The air is fine!”