Director Denis Villenuve directs Arrival, a mystery sci-fi drama about the arrival of 12 alien space craft around the world and the implications of that arrival as humanity responds to the inciting incident, the film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg and Forest Whitaker.
Arrival is a different kind of sci-fi film, you may have heard it being likened to Contact and Close Encounters of The Third Kind and while such comparisons are fairly apt, the film also stands on its own in the quite unique way it both sets up and executes its premise, it’s a very character driven drama, maybe more so than you initially expect and Louise Banks – played by Amy Adams is at the centre of the story, with some pretty moving and emotional scenes, she does a great job, pulling off an empathetic linguist/lecturer. While the supporting cast is also good in their roles, Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly makes a great supporting character to play off of Louise, while Forest Whitaker brings up the rear as Colonel Weber, a gruff military colonel that wants answers and progress as he’s being pressured by higher ups but is also understanding of the situation.
The best types of sci-fi films exploit the human condition, aspects and traits of people with grand scenarios and premises, offering fantastical futures and settings to explore sides and potential sides of humanity and Arrival does a good job at this, the 11 nations affected by the 12 spacecraft (2 in Russia) react differently to their arrival and take it in differently, people panic and riot and don’t really know what to do. But I think that making the situation international rather than having one spacecraft in one country made things interesting, seeing snippets of how different countries and cultures react to and take in the alien presence and as you watch on, you could almost say that some nations represent certain aspects of human personality in the way they react, or at least that’s how I’ve read into it.
There are some strong elements to the film that contribute to a good overall final product, the soundtrack – atmospheric, grand and powerful, it’s brilliant in certain scenes with the aliens and goes hand in hand with some incredible sweeping and long shots of vistas, locales and of the spacecraft themselves, with no real technological look to them, they just look very alien, monolithic even and I’m sure that was the intention.
The plot progresses in an interesting and engaging way, starting off a bit slowly initially but developing to a fever pitch in typical Villenueve style, a director who’s becoming an expert of the slow burn drama in my opinion, he’s great at maintaining and ratcheting up tension in a story without telling the viewer all of the information, keeping certain things a mystery and that’s certainly evident in Arrival. And this may be frustrating for some, you definitely don’t get all the answers you want and elements of the plot may seem unexpected and a bit too far fetched but that being said, I feel like the story progressed in an engaging way that subverted the genre, while raising interesting philosophical and thought provoking questions. Importantly, once you’re immersed, the film does make you genuinely think, in what is an overall suspenseful and engaging experience with some great build up and a final third that may not satisfy everyone but I feel like it’s an intriguing, noteworthy one.
. Has some strong perfromances, especially Amy Adams
. Brilliant soundtrack, great visuals
. Thought provoking sci-fi
. Plot points later on may unravel the film for some