When alien spacecraft appear at twelve random locations across the globe, the whole world scrambles to figure out where these ships have come from and why. In the US, linguist, Doctor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the government to establish communication with the aliens. A task made increasingly difficult by the rising tensions between host nations. Arrival is directed by Denis Villeneuve, the man behind Sicario, Prisoners and the upcoming Blade Runner 2049 and also stars Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma.
In a way, Arrival resembles the first hour of Independence Day. The ships show up, many begin to panic and across the world, governments attempt to make contact. This is where the similarities pretty much end; instead of uber destruction porn you get a very tense, slow burn, drama. Although both movies share the underlying theme that it’ll take a common goal and/or threat to truly unite the people of Earth. Carrying that weight of the world on her shoulders is Doctor Louise Banks. She’s on screen for about 90% of the movie and it’s a testament to Adams’ performance that she manages to maintain your interest throughout. There have been talks of Oscar nominations for her performances in both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals so 2016 is looking to be a great year for Adams.
The story is based on the novella “Story of Your Life”, the author – Ted Chiang – described Arrival as “a good movie and a good adaptation”. Johann Johannsson’s score really works to compliment the story, it adds to the awe, wonder and tension of the situation. This is Johannsson’s third project with Villeneuve and the relationship is clearly working because they’re now collaborating on Blade Runner 2049. Villeneuve certainly knows how to make a visually stunning movie as well. The shot of the alien ship hovering above a field in Montana with low level cloud flowing in over the mountains, Banks’ house on the lake, even the design of the ships, the alien language and the aliens themselves. Arrival really is a beautiful movie! I’m excited to see what Villeneuve does with Blade Runner.
My only real problem with Arrival is the twist. Now I’m not saying it’s easy to predict what will happen, but you can tell that there’s a twist coming. You know there will be a big reveal in the third act so part of you is merely waiting for it to happen. Now I got a lot enjoyment from this movie, but I know that it will not be as enjoyable on subsequent viewings. Arrival is a movie that relies so heavily on the audience not knowing that once the twist has been revealed it loses some of the intrigue. It’s something you will want to watch again, but not for some time.
Much like the Robert Zemeckis movie Contact, Arrival’s compelling story is built on intrigue and our innate desire to discover what the hell is going on. This may be a slow burn of a movie but it’s at no point boring. Thanks to the brilliant story, great cast and stunning visuals you will be engrossed from start to finish. And considering Oscar season is right around the corner, the future looks very bright for Arrival!
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