STARRING: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma and Mark O’Brien
As multiple mysterious extraterrestrial spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team is put together to investigate the UFO’s. Here we follow linguist Louise Banks being summoned by US Army Colonel Weber, partnered up with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly, where they most discover answers quickly before humankind heads towards global war against the visitors.
Denis Villeneuve has been on a bit of a roll lately in my eyes with Enemy, Prisoners and Sicario in recent years, so expectations with his latest film Arrival were already set at a high standard. With little given away promoting the film other than various location posters and an intriguing trailer, I went in not knowing really what to expect other than the films premise. So throughout the review I’ll do my best to not spoil any details of what occurs in the film as it definitely is one that you’d be better to experience going in blind.
From the opening frame to the end credit, this is a wonderfully directed film. The entire first act had me glued to my seat, the buildup of the aliens landing, to the reactions without seeing one of the giant alien structures in full until Amy Adams’s Louise Banks is taken to the site is brilliantly done. The wide ariel shot given us the scale, the fog/mist in the area surrounding it, it’s one of those shots that will stay with me. Speaking of which, the cinematography from Bradford Young (Selma/A Most Violent Year) is terrific and compliments the intense tone that Villeneuve is going for here as not only are humans trying to comprehend the fact that they are infact experiencing the arrival of aliens, but also the panic that sets in once they have arrived. The production design Patrice Vermette is great also and the score from Jóhann Jóhannsson is completely different from his previous collaboration with Villeneuve (Sicario) but just as haunting. The screenplay is pretty good as well adapting on Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life and actually had me engaged on the linguistics side of things and constructing languages which is on paper hard to see how it could be interesting to watch. Amy Adams gives a brilliant performance as Louise Banks, carrying the film entirely on her shoulders, bringing a sense of wonder and vulnerability in a rather interesting character study. The film goes all out with its final act in terms of the story it is trying to tell and for me it worked. She’s surrounded by a solid supporting cast, with Jeremy Renner’s physicist Ian Donnelly, Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber and Michael Stuhlbarg’s Agent Halpern.
The problem that people could have or actually will have with Arrival is expectation. If you go in looking for an alien invasion action blockbuster (e.g. Independence Day films or even District 9 to some extent) then you will be bitterly disappointed. Even if you went in expecting Contact or Close Encounters of the Third Kind I can’t say whether or not you’ll be let down by the film but I can see why Arrival is more often than not compared to them two. The film is very much a slow burn but some could view it as going at a snails pace and the final act you will either buy and like it or you may end up being letdown by it. While the film is essentially all about Amy Adams’s character Louise and is in 95% of the scenes here, it leaves little in terms of development on the supporting characters around her. The only thing that did bother me was one scene in the middle that added tension but the aftermath/conclusion seemed to be non-existent.
Arrival is a wonderfully ambitious, constructed and directed piece of science fiction from Denis Villeneuve. The theme of communication and compromise in the film just perfectly timed for the world we’re in at the moment, which will resonate with the film viewing audience. Arrival will definitely not be for everyone but for me I absolutely loved it and particularly the performance from Amy Adams which, for me personally, should see her nominated for Best Actress come Oscar season. 10/10