Hot Take: Smart and Sci-Fi go together so well. This cerebral exercise in life beyond ours is beautiful.
I’ve been a fan of director Denis Villeneuve for some time. 2013’s Prisoners was one of the best movies of that year and last year’s Sicario made my top 10 for 2015. This put Arrival on the “highly anticipated” list for 2016. It’s safe to say Arrival pays off with a smart, emotional Sci-Fi experience that focuses on “us” and not “them” with “them” being the alien visitors that turn our world upside down and put tensions on high alert. The movie isn’t about the aliens so much as a deeper look at the world and how we might handle such a crisis.
Arrival does a phenomenal job of providing a slow build without being boring. The film features Amy Adams as Louise Banks, an expert linguist brought in by the U.S. government to help bridge the communication gap between us and the alien visitors. Adams is impressive in the role and right now would be my frontrunner for Best Actress of 2016. She is complemented by Jeremy Renner who plays scientist Ian Donnelly, another person brought in to study the aliens by the government. Renner is solid in his role and the performance feels like something of a departure from his other roles. Forrest Whitaker as Colonel Weber is his consistent self in a supporting role.
Beyond the performances, the story of the world communicating with 12 unknown entities in various unlinked areas across the globe is one that is unexpectedly engrossing. The film’s focus of decoding the language of the visitors in order for both sides to speak is a novel approach and the time with which it takes to accomplish such a feat is respected in this film where other Sci-Fi films take such a task for granted or downplay the difficulty. In Arrival, the material and director give the topic the time it deserves to develop with an unexpectedly emotional third act payoff.
It’s worth mentioning Johann Johannsson’s score. His work on Villeneuve’s previous projects elevated both films (especially Sicario which has one of the best scores in recent memory) and it enhances the viewing experience of Arrival as well. There’s a real beauty to the film. Driven by Adams’ character’s believable passion around breaking through the communication barriers with the alien being, Arrival is more introspective than you’d expect and has a deeper meaning than your typical Sci-Fi flick. That’s a good thing. Especially now when, for some of us, there’s some challenges out there when it comes to the meaning of life.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- A”cade”my Adams?
Will this earn Adams an Academy Award nomination? If so, it will be her second Best Actress nomination and sixth nomination overall. She hasn’t made it over the hump yet and actually won but, at this point, I’d give it to her.
- Smart Sci-Fi is the Best Sci-Fi
Whenever a Science Fiction film can deliver a movie that makes you think about the meaning of everything rather than focusing on fancy spaceships and nifty lasers, it’s something great to watch. Not that there isn’t a place for the Star Wars and Star Trek films and their extensions but Arrival is grounded in reality which what makes it a spectacular viewing experience.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Am I the Only One Who Gets Amy Adams Confused With the Actress Who Was in Now You See Me?
It’s gotten to the point where I call her “Not Amy Adams” which, admittedly, is a little disrespectful and I know I got her name right when I reviewed Keeping Up With the Joneses but, if I’m being honest, I only got it right because I googled it.