THE STORY – Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when humongous spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.
THE CAST – Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg & Tzi Ma
THE TEAM – Denis Villeneuve (Director) & Eric Heisserer (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 116 Minutes
By Matt N.
”Arrival” could not have arrived (No pun intended) at a more appropriate time. While the country is so set on tearing itself apart in the aftermath of this year’s Presidential Election results, “Arrival” is a science fiction film that stands out as a reminder that we are at our best when we use logic, reasoning, understanding and teamwork to avoid disaster. Not confronting that disaster head on with violent means. “Arrival” is a thinking person’s science fiction film that is not only supremely well directed by Denis Villeneuve, but phenomenally led by Amy Adams and technically well made in every craft department. It’s one of the year’s best and will hopefully surprise you just as much as it surprised me.
No other film this year has had me chomping at the bits for a re-watch than “Arrival.” The film’s marketing has done a phenomenal job at disguising this film and hiding back it’s true nature and meaning. Without getting into any spoilers, let me just say that the final minutes of the film left me in tears by the end and impacted me on an emotional level unlike any other science fiction film before and that list includes “Gravity,” “Interstellar,” and “Contact.”
What separates “Arrival” is the direction by Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners” & “Sicario”) who has in a few short years become one of my favorite directors. What he understands better than most is how to establish mood and atmosphere in a film and thus capture a feeling from the audience. Whether that feeling is dread, sadness or joy, Villeneuve solidifies himself as a master storyteller with “Arrival” in how he carefully lets the story unfold leading up to those final moments which as I said before, left me in tears by the time the ending credits rolled.
We’ve seen Amy Adams in various types of roles throughout the years and she has always been a stellar actress. “Arrival” will stand as one of her best efforts in how she takes the audience on Louise’s emotional journey from the beginning until the very end. Not since “UP” have I been as shattered as I was in a film’s opening minutes and a lot of that credit belongs to Amy Adams. Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, and Michael Stuhlbarg are all in supporting roles and don’t particularly stand out enough to distract from Louise’s story which is a good move. This is Amy’s movie through and through and she carries it very well.
The technical aspects of “Arrival” are also all in top form. Despite this being a science fiction film, surprisingly the special effects don’t stand out in a manner you would typically associate with other science fiction films. Both “Gravity” and “Interstellar” come to mind as films which won Oscars for their visual effects work and I don’t necessarily see that happening for “Arrival.” However, I do see this film being recognized elsewhere. The sound work to create the alien language is inspired and meticulously layered. Johann Johannsson’s score is quite possibly his best yet and stands as one of the most unique scores I’ve heard this year. If you thought his work on “Sicario” was atmospheric, suspenseful and outright brilliant, just wait until you hear this. And where do I even begin with the beautiful cinematography by Bradford Young? Capturing the flashback visuals with an eye for Malick-like imagery and washing the film is blues and grays, “Arrival” looks absolutely gorgeous. Tying into what I said before about the film’s storytelling, the film editing subliminally plants moments and images in our mind gradually until the film reaches its climax. It is subtle work which also deserves to be singled out.
All in all, “Arrival” is unlike anything I expected or have seen in the past couple of years. It’s a thoughtful, beautiful and profound piece of work in Denis Villeneuve’s ever growing filmography. I will venture to say that I believe “Arrival” to be his best work and it could not have come out at a more perfect time for audiences to digest. It will leave you breathless with its bold storytelling, breathtaking visuals, and overall message. Though some audience members may mistake Villeneuve’s pacing to be slow initially, stick with it until the end. I guarantee you it will have you emotionally wrecked or at the very least, thinking about what you have just witnessed as you leave the theater.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Denis Villeneuve’s storytelling. Amy Adam’s lead performance. The film’s technical merits and it’s desire to favor emotion and ideas over action and violence.
THE BAD – Moviegoers may mistake Villeneuve’s patient storytelling for being too slow.