If you’re walking into Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) newest directorial effort Arrival starring Amy Adams hoping to see massive alien crafts invade our world like Independence Day with Adams’ linguist Dr. Louise Banks saving us all like Ripley in Aliens, then you may end up disappointed. Arrival is not that type of Science Fiction tale. Don’t expect a thrill a minute movie full of extraterrestrial chills, but instead a brilliant and emotional story that depicts a realistic look at dealing with a scenario where we find out we are not alone in this universe. Villeneuve’s depictions of how humans would handle this as a species on both a personal and global level is what makes Arrival one of the most fascinating films of 2016.
As stated earlier, the invasion angle of Arrival is minor in the overall scheme of the story. These beings don’t open their ship doors upon landing and begin to exterminate us on sight. The mysterious aliens seem just as confused as we are and that’s where the fun begins in Arrival. Most of your run of the mill Sci-Fi films would have our military and the alien vessels firing off their weapons after minimal interaction. Arrival takes the honest approach with military leaders fearful at first and wanting no part of a fight with a species much more advanced than them. The film displays how communication should always come before conflict, even if it can create a frustrating watch for the audience at times as they try to translate messages from other worlds. The exasperation felt during Arrival is actually part of the reward you will feel once the words between species become clear. At times the film harkens back to The Miracle Worker as Adams’ Dr. Banks attempts the impossible by making coherent contact with our extraterrestrial guests.
There are many things to love in Arrival, but the first that should be mentioned is Amy Adams’ outstanding performance as a linguist set on speaking to the creatures no matter what the risk is for her or the world. Adams generates a wide variety of emotions throughout the film from joy, fear, sadness and acceptance that somethings are meant to be no matter how hard you want to change them. Louise is not a showboat or someone wanting to rock the boat with the powers at be. She’s just an unassuming human trying to make a good first impression that could determine the fate of the world. Oscar buzz should surround Adams’ work in Arrival and this attention is well deserved.
Besides Adams’ Oscar worthy work in Arrival; the cinematography, screenplay, editing and work of director Denis Villeneuve could all see serious attention during awards season. The film may also find itself in the Best Picture race as well thanks to the Smart Sci-Fi presented on-screen and a twist that will have pondering your own life decisions way after the credits have rolled. When all is revealed in Arrival, the slow burn of learning a new language will be worth it and have you emotionally drained with a million thoughts running through your head. Not all questions will be answered and that’s what makes Arrival such a unique experience. Some mysteries of the universe are better off unexplained leading one to expand their mind looking for those answers. Arrival proves Science Fiction films can be art, emotional and thought-provoking without firing a single death ray causing intergalactic war.
Overall, I give Arrival 3.5 out of 4 stars.
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