Hollywood doesn’t have that great of a track record when it comes to banging out hits right now. It’s actually no wonder why a lot of filmmakers have chosen to go the indie route. From big budget flops to blockbuster movies that are just over the top, originality isn’t the only thing missing in a town full of creators. That’s why Arrival is such a refreshing thrill. It is, indeed, a must see.
The film is adapted from the book Story of Your Life and was written for the screen by screenwriter Eric Heisserer. It’s smart but not too smart that it goes over your head. Think Interstellar but understandable. You get Arrival. It lays out the facts in a way that doesn’t isolate its audience. For that I am grateful because, in my experience, the aforementioned Matthew McConaughey movie did just that, which took away from its brilliance.
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There are very few movies nowadays that I deem worthy of the hype. In fact, most movies fall so flat that it’s hard to believe that people raved about it in the first place. Arrival is not that movie. In truth, Arrival is near perfect. And I say near perfect because as far as I’m concerned the only truly perfect movie in the last decade is Inception. So when I say that this film is on pare with that masterpiece, I mean it.
So what is it about? Arrival tells the story of linguistics professor, Louise Banks played by Amy Adams, who is called upon to be a part of an elite investigative team assembled to determine the intentions of the 12 strategically placed spaceships all over the world. The way Heisserer tells the story is really the key to its excellence. It may seem like it’s all over the place, but it comes together in a way that blows your mind.
One of the messages in the film is the power of language. Louise is able to tap into the aliens’ heartbeat by building a relationship with them that starts with the foundation of communication. By doing this, she, along with her comrade Ian (Jeremy Reiner), save the earth. The interesting thing about the movie’s exploration of language is that it shows you how transforming it can be when one immerses themselves in its study. Without giving anything away, just know that Louise’ ability to do this is what changes not only her situation but also the world’s.
Arrival also explores how humans view that which we don’t understand. More than that, it shows how we often make premature decisions that are ill-advised and thus poorly received. On this assembled team, there are different players and while Louise and Ian make significant progress through their language method, the military personnel assigned to the operation do not believe their approach is beneficial. Needless to say, that they take things into their own hands and nearly costs them the entire mission, which would have meant destruction for the entire planet.
I liked Arrival because it takes a different approach to the alien subject. What we have seen in the past in countless films paint them to be hideous creatures hell-bent on destroying the earth. Small spoiler alert here, Arrival does not do that. It is fascinating to see because at any moment you expect them to turn on Louise and Ian during one of their encounters. It makes you wonder if all the fear we have been taught to feel about the possibility of extraterrestrials taking over earth has been for not.
As far as the acting goes, Adams is superb. I can’t recall seeing her in this kind of role in any of her past movies. It shows her versatility as an actress as well as her growth. Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber is great too. But you can’t really expect anything less than a stellar performance from him. Reiner is endearing as well and makes for an effective co-star. He executes his role in a way that adds to the movie overall.
Arrival is epic. I sat in my seat with my eyes glued to the screen because I didn’t want to miss anything. You don’t want to miss anything. It will thrill you and have you guessing the entire film, “What the hell is going on?” As long as you are up for the ride, you won’t be disappointed. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Film Review: ‘Arrival’
Reviewed at Sala Grande, Venice Film Festival, September 1, 2016. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 116 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures International release of a 21 Laps Entertainment, FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films production. Produced by Shawn Levy, Aaron Ryder, Karen Lunder, David Linde.
CREW: Director: Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay: Eric Heisserer. Camera (color, widescreen): Bradford Young. Editor: Joe Walker.
WITH: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nathaly Thibault, Mark O’Brien.