For a film whose entire two hour runtime is dedicated to one of sci-fi’s most prevalent tropes, Arrival is something wholely unexpected and quite possibly director Denis Villeneuve’s best.
Arrival (2016) is a science fiction mystery drama directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners). It stars Amy Adams as language expert Dr Louise Banks who is recruited by US Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker) after twelve mysterious alien ships appear around the globe to establish contact with these new visitors.
As ‘first-contact’ films could be considered their own sub-genre, its impressive to say that Villeneuve makes Arrival feel wholely unique. Yes, it still follows a sole individual amidst a worldwide response, but the decision to commit almost the entire movie on deciphering ‘why are they here’ gives it an intense focus not seen in other alien sci-fi films. This focus however does have a number of impacts, namely the pacing being kept to a crawl and certain other points of interest being glossed over. However, this pacing (which will definitely be frustating for some) allows the movie to take its time, and build the tension and intrigue that is so critical to this movie being engaging. That marketing line of ‘why are they here?’ that was plastered on every poster is crucial to the film itself and while the journey may drag getting there, the third act payoff is worth every second.
The indication that Oscar buzz already exists for Amy Adams is a sure sign that her performance is damn impressive. And yes, I would say Oscar-worthy. She paints Louise with all the insecurities and intelligence that her role requires and rises to the challenge in several very difficult scenes. Her supporting actor, Jeremy Renner as friendly scientist Ian Donally acts as a good assistant to her also even if his character is often short-shrifted by the screenplay. Forrest Whitaker is also typically solid as the serious Colonel, although its hard to disagree that Amy Adams is still very much the star and focus.
Arrival has all the hallmarks of brilliant sci-fi – thoughtful, unique, mysterious and a fascinating reflection of our world. The central intrigue is more than enough to put any pacing issues aside, and make this into one of the best films of the year so far. My anticipation for Blade Runner 2 just went through the room.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Must-see
Winner of the 2016 Batsie Awards for Ascension and What is reality?