Movie Review: Arrival

December 2, 2016

Arrival (2016)
116 minutes
Rated – PG-13
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Directed by Denis Villeneuve


Grade: A

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.



Movie Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

December 19, 2011

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
133 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton

Grade: A-

By this time, you’ve probably seen a Mission: Impossible film, or maybe you’ve seen them all. There really isn’t anything new to the way the film plays out or the espionage style with gizmos and gadgets that could be sold to Batman. But what intrigued me the most about the fourth installment of the franchise was the director, Brad Bird. This is his live-action debut after directing some of my favorite animated features: Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and The Iron Giant.

Bird did an exceptional job with Ghost Protocol by putting all of his weight on the acceleration pedal and never letting up. I must note that I viewed the film in IMAX and even though there was only a reported 27 minutes filmed specifically for IMAX, it made the whole experience better. There’s nothing like the rumbling of an aftershock vibrating your seat.

Anyway, Tom Cruise is back as IMF agent Ethan Hunt. After being broken out of a Moscow prison by Agent Carter and Dunn, he has to enter the Kremlin to extract files to reveal the identity of Cobalt, a man threatening to nuke America. When the plan fails, the Kremlin is destroyed and the idea of terrorism is high with Agent Hunt helmed as the leader. The IMF is disavowed but they still continue with their mission to track down Cobalt and disrupt his plan to launch a nuclear attack.

There is one scene that really took my breath away while watching Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and seeing it in IMAX only made me inch closer to the edge of my seat. The scene involves Tom Cruise dangling from the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, with just a pair of electrified adhesive gloves to climb several stories. The camera shot of how high up the building really goes gave me a serious case of vertigo, as I’m already scared of heights. I was simply flabbergasted throughout the whole suspenseful scene. Please Mr. Bird, how did you shoot this and did Cruise really do this stunt himself?

Aside from that jaw-dropping scene, the film had plenty of other high-pace, energetic moments from the chase scene through a sandstorm and the multiple-level fight scene inside a large car garage that changes platforms constantly. At the center of the entire movie is a very strong performance by Tom Cruise, displaying his intensity and professionalism from beginning to end. Simon Pegg provided much comedic relief while Jeremy Renner actually had a few humorous lines as well. And Paula Patton combined sexiness with a kick-ass attitude to compliment the team.

Overall, the pacing of the film is relentless and that’s a good thing. With a running time of 133 minutes, it never drags. And just like the Bond franchise, there seems to be plenty more missions for Ethan Hunt to take, though I would be content if this were the last because I love it when franchises save the best for last.

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