Photo courtesy of IMDb
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (based on the story â€œStory of Your Lifeâ€ written by)
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Log Line: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.
Boy, did I need to see this! 2016 was a tough year for many reasons, both generally and personally. Itâ€™s not often I watch a movie twice in a row, but after seeing â€˜Arrivalâ€™ the first time the other night, I couldnâ€™t wait to put it on again. Iâ€™ve always been a huge Amy Adams fanâ€”two of my favorite movies of hers being â€˜Enchantedâ€™ and â€˜Julie & Julia.â€™ Sheâ€™s one of those rare actors who can exhibit both vulnerability and strength at the same time and break your heart in the process. And as a professor of linguistics trying to solve an impossible mystery, she is at the top of her game.
I wonâ€™t recount the story hereâ€”you can watch the trailer for that. But I will point out a few things I felt made this filmâ€”nominated for eight Academy Awards at the time of this writingâ€”brilliant. First off, the writing. The story by Ted Chiang is filled with a profound sense of human longingâ€”a longing to connect with something bigger. Many people interpret this as a search for God in our lives, and I happen to believe that. But I think, in general, people want to feel a part of something outside ourselves. Something that gives life meaning and us a purpose. The screenplay, based on that story, captures this feeling beautifully and reinforces it throughout so that by the time you arrive at the end, you can see.
The direction and cinematography were perfect for this kind of storytelling. Everything that happens is seen through Louiseâ€™s eyes, and we unravel the mystery with her. As if things werenâ€™t difficult enough trying to decipher an alien language, she is always surrounded by strangersâ€”army personnel and CIA operativesâ€”whose purpose she canâ€™t fathom and who seem to be in opposition to what sheâ€™s trying to accomplish. Inside the massive floating spacecraft, we lose our sense of direction. And the playing with time itself throughout is hypnotic.
Of course, any good movie has lots of conflict, which in this case is presented in the form of peopleâ€™s paranoia about the aliens. The armies of the world all want to know what the aliensâ€™ purpose is in coming here and, judging from their actions, they are all on a hair trigger. The director Denis Villeneuve captures this intense struggle with simplicity and clarity. And to balance things outâ€”because not everyone in the military can be badâ€”we have the character of Colonel Weber, who is just trying to understand. Oh, and that soundtrack! Pay attention to the horns every time we see the aliens.
In the wrong hands, â€˜Arrivalâ€™ could have turned into â€˜Independence Day.â€™ Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed! No doubt, I will see it again.
You can find this review at IMDb. Now, check out this featurette.
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