Arrival is an absorbing, nearly perfect film that examines humanity and many of its issues. I’m going to start with saying that I’m a fan of director Denis Villeneuve. I found myself really invested in his three previous movies (Prisoners, Enemy, and Sicario). He does a really wonderful job of immersing the audience in a world that feels real. If someone asked me who are the new, real-deal directors in the industry, I would point to Denis Villeneuve and a few more filmmakers. I think he does a great job at making films that leave lasting impressions and make me think.
In the movie, a series of unidentified flying objects from space come floating down to Earth. No one knows why they are here or how they even got here, and limited contact with them has led to nowhere as the aliens inside can’t communicate with humans because of the language barriers. To ask the question as to why these aliens, called Heptopods, are here, the US military hires Dr. Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) to crack the code to the unknown alien language. Alongside Banks is physicist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner), who tries to understand the science behind the Heptopods.
The first thing that stood out about this movie was Amy Adams. She is absolutely fantastic as Louise Banks, and I really feel bad for her for not receiving an Oscar nomination this year. From the moment the film starts, you start to realize that this is a broken character who has dealt with loss. First her husband left her and then her daughter died. The opening scenes have a lot of visual imagery that tell the story without much dialogue, and that made me connect with the character of Louise early on. Amy Adams is really convincing as this character because of how complex she is. She seemed genuinely impacted by just the slightest movements of the Heptopods because of how difficult of a task it is to figure out their language.
Jeremy Renner’s character of Ian is also really good. He’s not in the movie as much, but he’s really great when he’s there. Like Louise, Ian also really cares about discovery and his motivations are pretty clear early on. He’s excited about seeing aliens and he wants to figure out as much as he can about them. Forrest Whitaker’s also in the movie, but he doesn’t do much as he’s just a military dude.
As I mentioned before, Denis Villeneuve is amazing at making films that feel grand. This movie understands the realistic implications of an actual alien entering our world. There are political issues spanning across countries as well as personal fears among regular individuals. It’s not like aliens are just dropping explosives and destroying famous landmarks. While there are some countries that want to use their military to make a preemptive strike, America is focusing more on understanding the aliens even though there are some who want to militarize alien tech.
Another positive aspect of Arrival is the soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson (cool name by the way). This guy did the music for Villeneuve’s other movies, and did a wonderful job with the score for this. While it’s not something I would pick up and listen to on its own, that’s not a bad thing at all. The score blends seamlessly with the visuals and accentuates key moments. It drums in the background while Louise works constantly to crack the Heptopod language. I’m pretty happy that Jóhannsson is scoring Villeneuve’s next film, Blade Runner 2049, as the two have worked very well together in the past.
The best part of Arrival’s story was the ending. A lot of people have talked about how the ending confused them, and it confused me at first as well so I took a week to think about this movie before writing about it. I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll probably write a really short, spoiler filled segment soon (after I write a few more things first). This is one of those films that builds up until the very end, and the ending just changes everything in the best way possible. After pondering for days, it all clicked (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the movie). The ending elevated an already good sci-fi movie to a great one. It reveals everything about the film that you were questioning and shows everything we didn’t know about the characters before.
The last thing I will say about Arrival is that it’s a thinking-person’s movie. If you don’t really like movies that make you question, you might not like Arrival. Friends of mine didn’t like it, and that was fine since it’s either really engaging or really boring. I personally found it to be the former, but others may not. I’m in no way trying to make myself seem smart to those who didn’t understand it by saying “I understand it, and you don’t” because I didn’t understand it at all originally, and I was actually going to give this movie a lower rating because of that. I’m just rambling at this point so I’m going to stop 🙂
Anyways, Arrival is an amazing film that would have probably been included in my top 10 films of 2016 if I had seen it in 2016. It had everything a great movie often has: a great premise and story, dynamic characters, fantastic acting, and wonderful visuals. I also think that Arrival is Denis Villeneuve’s best film so far. My only issue with it is that I think it could have added a little more with Jeremy Renner’s character given that he seems like an important character even though he really doesn’t do much until the end. Also, the movie is kind of slow in the middle when there’s no progress made with communication. However, those are just small nitpicks in an otherwise amazing movie. Though not everyone will like it, I loved it, and on a scale of 1 to 10, I’m going to give Arrival a 9.
So those are my thoughts on Arrival! What do you think about the movie? Did you like this review? Please feel free to let me know by commenting down below. Thanks!
Categories: Movie/TV Reviews