Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien and Tzi Ma.
A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications
If aliens landed on earth, how would we react and how would we try to communicate with them? This is the question posed in Denis Villeneuve’s sublime sci-fi thriller Arrival. Based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang; Eric Heisserer’s screenplay delves into the concept of time, space, alien life and humanity.
Renowned linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military after 12 alien crafts descend on Earth and hover above the surface in random countries across the world. Slowly Banks begins to communicate with the aliens; supported by charming scientist Ian Donnelly (Renner). Louise sets out on a mission to prevent the World’s leaders from declaring war and destroying the human race.
As with all of Villeneuve’s films, there is a lot more to the story and theme then the simple idea that aliens have landed. This is not Independence Day or any other type of traditional disaster movie. This is a cerebral examination of language being powerful enough to change the world. The question of time and reality is also discussed in detail and Heisserer and Villeneuve have created a tremendous piece of film making that is suspenseful, heart breaking, horrifying and stunning.
Amy Adams provides a solid and highly emotional performance as Louise Banks. From the opening few minutes, Villeneuve lays out Louise’s life from the birth of her daughter through to her death at a tragically young age. In this short amount of time Adams is able to build a real and whole character. As the film progresses we see the strength of her character come through. Adams is one of the best actresses of our generation and she brings a tremendous amount of heart to this unusual film. Jeremy Renner as “science guy” Ian Donnelly is entertaining to watch. He isn’t given as much depth of character but the chemistry between the two leads works and it’s a delight to watch them. Forest Whitaker is also on hand as stern but understanding army man Colonel Weber. He too is under developed but he ticks all the boxes.
Alongside the tremendous visuals (the first reveal of the craft in rural Montana is a stunning aerial sweeping shot that is unlike anything I’ve seen in years), performances and direction is the score from Johann Johannsson. It is pitch perfect throughout. Almost operatic at times it is the glue that holds this entire film together – it’s unsettling, comforting and epic all at once.
Arrival is a unique piece of cinema that shows the best and worst of humanity whilst dealing with a lot of big themes and issues. It is awe-inspiring and essential viewing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★