This review was originally posted on November 20th 2016
Arrival is a film about a woman trying to talk to aliens. It goes a little deeper than that but if you had to boil the plot down and avoid spoilers, that is essentially it. For an alien invasion movie there is little sci-fi action, very minor credible threat and a lot of dialogue heavy, often complicated scenes.
And it is all brilliant. Somehow, Arrival is one of the most compelling movies of the year. From a realistic “alien invasion” and people’s reactions to it at the beginning of the film through the mystery that plays-out as the movie progresses and down to the final moments when the finale completes the film perfectly, you won’t pause for breathe and you’ll be engrossed.
This is because the “puzzle” at the center of the movie is such a convincing one. Amy Adams’ linguist is called in by the US Government to try to communicate with the aliens and decipher their language. This involves a lot of tedious deciphering, simplistic and awkward exchanges and mesmerizing moments of contact between the US military and the expertly designed aliens. These scenes, in a chamber with the characters divided by a bizarre clear screen, are the best in the film and drive the narrative forward at a great pace.
This comes down to the great performance by Amy Adams. The actress sells the experience of meeting beings from another planet perfectly. Her gasps for air as she contemplates what is about to happen, the shakes of her hands and the growing in confidence as she begins to solve the central puzzle to the narrative.
That puzzle is only part of the story though. Arrival manages to make subtle commentary on the world-wide experience of an alien invasion. This is everything from the social breakdown, the reaction of competing countries and how easily communication and cooperation breaks down in a world that is so easily connected. Although never at the forefront or rammed down your throat, there is plenty to examine, unpick and consider in this movie.
It is down to the central plot of deciphering what these aliens want and whether they are a threat. This is teased very well and enough is given and explained to keep the audience guessing but never jaded. It isn’t easy conversations and narrative points, dealing with how to decipher language and the way communication works, but it is made easy to understand through very well written dialogue which never panders but does keep things clear.
This even includes a very well-placed and written twist which will side-swipe many and ushers in a very exciting and edge-of-seat finale. Most of this is again down to Amy Adams, who steals the movie considering it also stars heavyweight talent like Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.
Overall, Arrival is an intelligent, compelling and brilliant movie. It has a great narrative which covers language, social constructs and world politics but tells an interesting story at the same time. Amy Adams is excellent, as are the aliens which “invade” the planet.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)