Director: Denis Villeneuve
Quite often, in amongst all the big budget special effects laden science fiction movies that grace the silver screen, you will find a no less commercially promotable film like Arrival but unlike the crash and thunder of alien invasion you might see in, for instance, Independence day Arrival is a more understated affair which hopes to get a message across. A message to the human race rather than other worldly species.
Amy Adams plays Dr Louise Banks, a languages lecturer, who alongside scientist Ian Donnelly (Renner), is called in to try to make first contact with an alien race who have arrived in twelve ships across the globe. Banks is still haunted by the loss of her daughter, Hannah, and despite being considered a linguistic genius, by her own admission, she struggles to communicate with those around her. Donnelly doesn’t seem to carry much baggage with him, just a sense of desperation at being single. He takes a shine to Banks despite their differing opinions on language and science.
They are sent up to try to establish why the beings have arrived on Earth, watched carefully by Colonel Weber (Whitaker). Although seemingly supportive Weber is concerned the intentions of the visitors is not peaceful and wants to be best prepared to deal with that eventuality.
What struck me about Arrival was it seemed to have an air of delicacy in its delivery. Much the same as Banks and Donnelly’s attempts to communicate with the visiting species the film treads carefully as it proceeds. Bank’s maternal instincts really shone through as she found beauty in the manner of which the communication was presented by their guests. This is balanced quite nicely by Donnelly’s eager scientific mind. Credit to Adams and Renner for making the characters really seem immersed in their work whilst projecting a desire to maintain a peaceable relationship with the aliens whilst miliary minds, both official and otherwise, were a little more jittery and prepared for the worst.
The movie tries to send across a message that the cynical, myself included, might see as a little twee or even patronising but nevertheless take nothing away from this film in its good intentions in that respect. As already mentioned, this isn’t a loud Michael Bay blockbuster style science fiction offering. It asks you to have a little think and deals more with the workings of time itself then laser shootouts in the stars. It’s cleverly constructed and takes you into the events. At times it actually felt like a documentary and ahead of directing the new Blade Runner film and after the thriller Sicario it shows Denis Villeneuve is a director of some talent and that bodes well in terms of the aforementioned Blade Runner 2049 released next year.
If you don’t want to have to put your thinking cap on then, maybe, Arrival isn’t for you but even so it’s a film very much worth seeing.
Verdict: 4/5 stars – A nice piece of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.