Arrival (2016) – Film Review

Stunning Old Skool Science Fiction


I’ve been in a slumber blog wise for a while but having seen Arrival I felt compelled to type a few words.  This much anticipated film is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario (2015)) and stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.  12 mysterious UFOs have arrived on Earth at differing locations including one site in Montana.  Dr Louise Banks (Adams) is recruited by the military as a language expert to try and communicate with the mysterious visitors.  She is teamed up with scientist Ian Donnelly (Renner) while their work is overseen by Colonel Weber (Whitaker).  Their mission – to understand whether Earth is at risk

Arrival is the film I hoped it would be but found it hard to believe I would get.  Forget explosions, fist fights that sound like nuclear explosions and witty one liners between two excessively handsome film stars.  This is science fiction in the finest tradition.  It is a film of ideas that focuses on how we communicate and the dangers in misunderstanding.  The same word can have different meanings depending on the context in which it is used which is darn important when you are trying to avoid interplanetary war.  Arrival also plays with time and you have to figure out how the opening scenes play into the story which ends with a moral dilemma and strong emotional beat.

The film captures brilliantly the unsettling nature of being thrown into this alien situation as Banks is ferried from home to a military base almost straight into an encounter with an unknown life-form.  Villeneuve does this by not allowing the action to settle and the viewer is forced on the same unnerving journey as the characters.  One note on the production design is that it draws heavily on marine creatures from the squid ink drawings to the whale-like sounds used in the score.  There is probably one scene that I wouldn’t have bothered with about being single but it’s not a hardship to sit through and quickly forgotten.

I’ll be going back to see this again when it is officially released because I have a few questions about the ending and hope to be joined by many fellow film enthusiasts.  Arrival is a slow burn with a big pay off that we don’t see often enough in this genre.  Comes highly recommended – my rating 4/5 … or 5/5 when I’ve seen it again and figured out if I’ve missed something.


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