Review: ‘Arrival’ Touches Our Hearts And Abducts Our Minds

Jake Bridgman ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

“There are days that define your story beyond your life” remarks Louise, Amy Adams’ character in the new Denis Villeneuve film, Arrival. Consequently there are also movies that define perfection beyond description. Arrival is one these few marvels. The film is simply unlike anything we’ve seen in years.

Arrival is an opulent and audacious first-contact Sci-Fi film brought from the stars by the French-Canadian director of notable slow-burn suspense movies such as Sicario (2015) and Prisoners (2013). As several recent Sci-Fi adventures do, our protagonist is a civilian expert, abducted by the government to offer expertise that the military seemingly cannot. We could be talking about Cooper from Interstellar, but in Arrival we’re talking about linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks (Adams), who is brought on as a translator and communicator to earth’s new refugees. The main storyline begins with a dozen massive extraterrestrial spacecrafts, shaped like half-olives, touching down across the globe suddenly. The world has one question – Why are they here?

Amy Adams in Arrival. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

From a glimpse, we infer that Arrival is more than a Alien vs. Human Cold War, but what’s magnificient is how the film maintains a collection of stunning visual feast and time-ticking ultimatum tropes while developing a complex set of philosophical quandaries and notions of exactly what language can be delivers a new kind of “Thoughtbuster” like Christopher Nolan. The film folds in complex theory rooted in science that never feels forced into the narrative, but necessary and intriguing. How Adams’ character presents the fundamental challenge of establishing communication with the aliens is insightful, informative and utterly mind-blowing. Once again, Villeneuve proves himself to be a master and crafter of a unique tone – a staple of his films are slow-burn sequences that build slower and stronger than anything currently in the screen. A Hitchcock meets Kubrick fusion accompanied by poignant visual and musical cues that open eyes and mouths.

The dialogue is never superfluous, rendering efficient definition of dense concepts in believable moments. It never over stays its welcome with any characters, developing strong relationships among them in a fast yet compelling way.

Amy Adams in Arrival. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Each scene is shot beautiful with cinematographer Bradford Young skillfully maintaining an intimate focus on the story of a global incident. Shallow focus and spanning landscapes carve visual beauty into the story. Villeneuve has never disappointed with eerie, tentious, skin crawling scenes. By switching from subtle political red tape cutting to cold-hearted mutiny to ethereal moments beautiful human-alien interaction, Villeneuve grips us tightly in this truly visionary film. It is a large expensive chronicle that never feels overdrawn or patronizing of its audience.

At a time where large budget Sci-Fi thrillers fall into the low road of spectacle driven storytelling, Arrival offers the best of that, while incorporating the most realistic and worrisome aspects of communicating with a foreign entity, speaking to our problems that exist in our world today. It requires the audience to go on a limb and think deeply about the themes it present but harnesses us with stunning visuals and intriguing characters. Arrival is a reminder of how truly vast the Sci-Fi genre can be, while offering something contemplative on the human experience as well.

Overall Grade: A

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