By: Avram Vargas
This review is slightly late, but I do think many should see this film. Arrival is one of this year’s best films, and it oddly enough holds some small relevance to my country’s current situation. It’s not an obvious parallel, but there is something to be said about standing together during conflict. I must also say this will be a short review, as I don’t want to spoil its true surprise for everyone because even though there’s a message about unifying during conflict, there is another message about conflict that I know you will enjoy as it unfolds for you first hand, within the theater. Don’t let anyone spoil this gem for you.
Arrival is about 16 pod like UFOs that suddenly appear around our planet, and how the different nations respond to such phenomenon. Our story focuses on how the US handles their local pod. They hire linguistic expert, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to translate communication between the alien beings within the pod. First and foremost I think there needs to be some expectations set for Arrival. The film is a very slow burn, and it’s not your standard alien invasion film, it’s actually very compact for a film that focuses on a global event (which is one of its assets, trust me). Do not go into this film expecting a war between humans and aliens. This is how sci-fi films should be and it contains the most important element of sci-fi that I’ve come to love from the genre. Which is rather than just having a bunch of advanced technology and laser beams in ordered to be labeled as “sci-fi,” it incorporates new refreshing narrative ideas through sci-fi. You’ll know exactly what I’m speaking of by the film’s end.
Arrival comes from the mind of Denis Villeneuve, who is a name that keeps constantly growing every year with one great flick after another. In terms of atmosphere, I don’t think many can top the man’s skill in accuracy and this is evident through his filmography. Many of the scenes hold a mysterious air within them as Louise attempts to bridge language between the two species. The same vibe holds for some poignant moments that float around throughout the narrative for Louise specifically. Speaking of Louise, Amy Adams is the shining star of the film and continues to be one of the most consistent actresses of our time. Her performance is Academy Award nomination worthy, but whether or not the Academy will grant such an honor is another question since they’re not as friendly to science fiction films (however, it’s not unheard of).
During the majority of the slow burn portion of the film, it’s nice to see exactly how Louise and her partner Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) go about making the connection. As danger looms around the corner due to not knowing the extent of such aliens, nor their endgame, the world is in a state of paranoia. Questions are raised such as “who is translating these beings correctly?” “who knows more than the others?” and “who can be trusted?” The paranoia only grows as nations continue to divide over not knowing what’s to come. This movie is about how to communicate with unknown forces, as well as communicating together with those we already know. And although this is what the majority of the film is about, there’s still much more on its true intent. There’s a thematic opposite present for confronting unknown conflict. Without giving much away, there is a message about facing a threat that you know is coming, and facing it with strength and embrace. I can’t say much more than that but this is where the film truly shines and it will make itself apparent to you in a beautiful sequence led by Amy’s emotional force. I don’t think this film will necessarily make anyone feel better about the current emotional state of our world, but give it a try, sit back, and enjoy yourself for 2 hours. It’s a beautiful piece of cinema that brings emotional presence to a genre that shines when gelled together the right way.