After 12 Unidentified Flying Objects arrive in scattered locations around the globe, a brilliant linguist and expert scientist are recruited by the US Government to learn the purpose of the visitors before the fear of the unknown takes over the world.
Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (Story)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Run time/Rating: 116 Minutes/ PG-13
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
Over the past few years the Sci-Fi blockbuster has seen an encouraging resurgence. Not that the genre has ever taken too long of a break but with hit movies, both critically and at the box office such as Gravity, Mars and Interstellar they have become smarter, with current technological advancements, seemingly more realistic and a staple at the theater again. Coming …OK, Arriving… this summer with a slight sense – conceptually speaking -that we have already been here before, is Denis Villenuve’s Arrival. Better late than never would certainly apply to Arrival as it stands with and improves on all of the previously mentioned titles and most others that have come before it in the genre. Arrival is an alien movie which remains on Earth, both physically and with its emotional sense and humanistic themes.
Amy Adams is once again brilliant in an engaging and underplayed role as Louise, a world class linguistics expert. At the onset of the film walks into her theater sized classroom with just a handful of students. With buzzing and ringing phone alerts a student asks if a television can be turned on and they soon find out that 12 gigantic UFO’s have arrived at various places throughout the world. Class is dismissed and Louise goes home amidst chaos to watch news coverage which is unaware of the happenings and causing a stir of speculation throughout the world. Louise will not be a part of the general public in the dark for long however as she is soon recruited by Colonel Weber of the US Military played by Forest Whitaker to use her expertise and attempt to translate the sounds of the mysterious beings. She arrives on the Montana site of the UFO where a full military operation has been established. She meets the other civilian that the government has recruited, expert scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and they both soon meet the captivatingly designed aliens with a goal to communicate and learn their purpose. As the diplomatic and scientific process ensues with the visitors whose objectives are unknown, there is no general consensus on the proper steps to take regarding forceful action. Additionally, this is as communities across the world are rioting, looting and looking for answers.
These issues, along with the character depth given to Louise as the film periodically cuts inside her dreams and thoughts personalize this out of the world story and confronts the audience with concepts of our own reaction to trauma, the idea of knowing the previously unknown and the impact something like this would have on our relationships. Beyond the concepts explored, cinematographer Bradford Young shoots an extremely real Sci-Fi film with very little, obvious CGI. There is also a really beautiful and impactful score happening behind the film which adds everything a good score should for a film with such intensity.
Arrival stands out as one of the better movies of the year to this point. At times I felt a bit of an urge for something to happen, but usually just then it did. I could also understand it not making sense to some people which can be an easy trap for Sci-Fi stories to fall into. Although I found it much more understandable than Nolan’s Interstellar. I would also question the narrative choices a bit, misleading and withholding certain pieces of information to create more of a reveal at the end. This type of thing only makes the story more enjoyable so I only mention a few of these notes as afterthoughts rather than obvious issues to a great film. The writers, directors, creative team and actors will have much deserved praise coming their way in the means of nominations and awards but it is just as rewarding for all of us to enjoy!