Rated – PG-13
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
I never like to write any kind of review and say how I cannot completely discuss it because it would spoil the essence and the experience that the film offers, but this is true with Denis Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi flick, Arrival. It starts out like many other alien invasion films. There is heightened panic and confusion when alien ships enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land all over the globe. As the audience, we share a unique perspective from other Hollywood films, which is being in the same shoes as the characters. They’re all scared and they know close to nothing about anything. Will humanity have to bond with one another to overcome the extraterrestrial? Will the foreigners invade and conquer the human race? Who will be the hero to save the day?
What is refreshing about this film is how serious it takes itself, but also remains complex enough to be truly science fiction. This isn’t your popcorn sci-fi film like Independence Day; this is more like Interstellar but with a much more satisfying conclusion. Our protagonist is Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a brilliant professor of linguistics that is contacted and brought in to help figure out why the aliens are here and what they want. She pairs up with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and together they have the impossible task of deciphering the advanced alien language as time is ticking down to intergalactic warfare.
Arrival is a film that will force you to pay attention, because like those certain lessons in school that were critical tools you need for your future, Arrival throws a lot of information at you and expects you to understand. While a good majority of the film was predictable, it was still done with great precision and suspense from Villeneuve, one of the better directors of this generation. Every scene is full of excitement and mystery and even when nothing is happening, the details are worth talking about. Villeneuve always had this gift from past films like Prisoners and Sicario; he can extract the best from his actors, make a screenplay punch you in the face, and at the same time deliver an entire project that will leave you breathless at the end.
There are so many things that work well in Arrival that it’s a film I cannot wait to view for a second time. I fully expect a second and third viewing of this sci-fi gem to only enhance the experience. While Amy Adams did give a very strong performance, it was overshadowed by the intelligence of the overall movie and how realistic it all felt (a rare occasion with a sci-fi movie). And one thing that you can always anticipate from Villeneuve is that you won’t get an entirely “movie” ending with his films. For those who give Arrival a chance and accept its theories that drive the plot, it will instantly become a science fiction classic.