Our once-every-couple-years good science fiction film.
Arrival is another one of those films that has been met with more or less universally positive acclaim. For whatever reason, I chose to not see this in the theater, which was probably a mistake. I tend to enjoy Dennis Villeneuve’s films, but this one might be his best yet.
Sicario and Prisoners are both good films, but both also suffered from a bit of unevenness throughout. Arrival marks a more confident, focused, and consistent film experience. Amy Adams shines as Louise, a language expert called upon to help translate what alien visitors are saying. She is hurried away from her home to one of twelve sites where alien crafts have landed (well, they haven’t really landed, more so hovering above the ground) all over the globe.
The story takes an alien arrival seriously, and I applaud it for doing so. For some reason, whenever aliens come onto the screen the cheese and ham are brought out by the truckload. For me, science-fiction films that are worth watching could probably be counted on two hands.
Jeremy Renner gives a solid performance as Ian, and his sense of wonder as a scientist compliments Louise’s early anxiety around the aliens. The two strive to accurately communicate with the aliens, and in doing so we get an interesting lesson in how language works and how important it is. I suppose we can all show this film to our families next time they complain about the humanities as a field.
The film follows an entertaining, but somewhat predictable arc. Anyone who has read Slaughterhouse-Five is going to call the ending of the film fairly early. Knowing how the film is going to end doesn’t take away from the enjoyment, but it did make the suspenseful moments more obnoxious than tense.
Reviewing this film is somewhat difficult. I do want to avoid spoilers as best I can, so that limits what can be said more than one might think. I loved the moments with the aliens, and the decoding of their language. The interactions here were top-notch, and I was as excited as the characters to get back into the chamber.
What irked me a bit in this film is the attempts at suspense. Do not get me wrong, I do think a lot of the things that occurred in the film would occur in real life (including governments acting foolhardy). However, once the twist is revealed, the suspense is more of just fluff since it really doesn’t matter. Perhaps I am being nit-picky, but I want to see a film that keeps the serious tone all the way through without throwing in other genres to mix it up in the final act. (I am looking at this, District 9, Interstellar, and most other sci-fi films).
Arrival is 100% worth watching. It deserves its many nominations. But something about the film as a whole did not stick with me. While I enjoyed it as I watched, now a couple days later, it is already fleeing from my memory. 7.5/10