Arrival is a Sci-fi drama following linguistics professor Louis Banks, who is recruited by the American Government after twelve alien spacecraft appear around the planet. She, along with physicist Ian Donnelly, must find a way to communicate with these aliens, but fear of the extra-terrestrials is pushing the planet into a panic. Arrival attempts to show a realistic portrayal of what communicating with aliens would really be like. These aren’t like the aliens you’d see in Star Trek or other Sci-fi blockbusters, who look like humans covered in scales and talk in a random language that everyone seems to understand. These aliens are totally different from humans in every conceivable way and their method of communicating is unrecognisable to us, which makes the story of trying to communicate very engaging and interesting. This film is a very serious and grounded depiction of Science fiction, and I won’t spoil the plot in this review as it goes to some unexpected places, but this was one of my favourite films from 2016. Arrival is directed Denis Villeneuve and stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forrest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg.
David Villeneuve is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors working today. Between this, ‘Prisoners,’ and more, he has shown that he is a master of slow moving but deeply engaging and detailed films. This film is full of gorgeous, dark cinematography that is truly beautiful. There are lots of long shots that are full of detail and imagery. Villeneuve is really good at building and maintaining a suspenseful tone. It isn’t overpowering suspense like you would get in a horror film, but instead more subtle and intriguing, and it kept me really invested in what was going on even when nothing highly dramatic was happening. There is also an overall sense of wonder and discovery which is novel in a world full of ‘Independence Day’ type alien films. This isn’t a film about trying to blow up alien invaders, but is about communication and working together as a planet to solve a problem peacefully. So while this isn’t the sort of film I would re-watch all the time, it is the sort of film that leaves you thinking about what it is trying to say and how it relates to the state of the world at the moment.
The performances are all brilliant, especially Amy Adams’ as Louis Banks. She definitely deserves the Oscar she has been nominated for. She sells the wonder and fascination of interacting with these alien creatures, but also portrays a deeply broken woman with a tragic past. However, she manages to show this pain without having a scene where she breaks down and cries, the type of scene that typically appears on an Oscar real, she instead shows the pain she is in her actions and conversations throughout the film. It’s very subtle and heart-breaking to watch as she seems like a real person with this past pain which makes her a very relatable leading character. Jeremy Renner is also really good in the supporting role of Ian Donnelly. He is lighter hearted and cheery than Adams, but still has that sincerity and wonder in his performance that makes him likable. His character didn’t do much through the film other than support Adam’s character, but I still like that he was there as he offered a lighter perspective into this quite serious film.
I’m not going to say much more, as this is really the sort of film that you should just experience for yourself without knowing too much. It is a beautifully directed science fiction film that is about peace and communication rather than war and action. It is really interesting and engaging and a must see film.
P.S. I was worried about this Movie Monday, as the only film in the cinema that I haven’t already seen is Fifty Shades Darker, which I have absolutely no interest in watching. Thankfully I realised I hadn’t reviewed Arrival from when I watched it last year, and there was a reshowing of it at my cinema so I thought I’d review that instead of sitting through something that I would definitely hate. Also I never watched the first Fifty Shades so I’d be completely lost.