Movie Name: Arrival
Studio: FilmNation Entertainment
Release Date(s): September 1, 2016 (Venice Film Festival)/November 11, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) finds herself pulled into a world event when twelve ships mysteriously appear floating above the Earth at seemingly random places around the globe. The aliens do not communicate in any means that anyone can understand, and Louise learns she must work quickly to decode the language to learn the aliens intent. Teamed with a physicist named Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), is in a race against time while being haunted by the death of her daughter…but all is not as it seems as Louise could change the course of the world and her own life.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Arrival is a sci-fi drama. The film is based on the 1988 short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. The film was originally released at the Venice Film Festival and was well received by critics. The film won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Production Design.
Denis Villeneuve has proven to be an interesting director. Prisoners was good but not quite there. Sicario was better and showed a developing skill. Arrival finally seems to push him over the top by showing a great slow burning thriller that is definitive of a true sci-fi film by exploring concepts and ideas. Due to the construction of the movie, a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.
Arrival develops slowly…painfully slow at points. Despite a runtime of less than two hours, the movie feels longer. It is intentional but it might not sit with everyone. It goes with the struggles of the characters to do an impossible job while under the gun. There is some cliché “aliens are bad” invasion-storylines, but recent events in the world show that aliens would be coming to a potentially hostile environment…I could totally see certain world leaders threatening to attack aliens before we understood them.
As this story is going on, a secondary story showing the life and death of Amy Adams’ daughter is unfolding. Though the twist worked for me, I was already pretty suspicious of the storyline simply because Adams is pretty young and I couldn’t picture her having a teenage daughter (especially due to her prickly persona which would have meant an early marriage). It turns out the suspicions were valid, but also raised interesting questions: if you knew something was going to end in heartache despite the good…would you still do it?
Amy Adams can almost do no wrong. She gives it all in her performance. Jeremy Renner is also generally strong, but Adams elevates him. Forest Whitaker rounds out the cast as the colonel willing to give Louise a chance to talk to the aliens to prevent a world war.
The visuals are also top notch. The film employed real linguists to try to get the science behind the unwrapping of the alien language as real as possible. The exploration of the language is combined with some stunning special effects including the odd handlike-octopus aliens Abbott and Costello who almost become secondary characters in the movie…they are scary and intimidating.
Arrival isn’t for everyone, and I can imagine some could be angry at the end of the film because it is more of a thinking ending. The pacing and the ending could hurt movies like this, but I kind of knew the movie would be something like this when looking at the previews. If you go into Arrival with an open mind and the idea that events in the world are sometimes both bigger and smaller than they seem…the journey is worth the trip.