An unknown ship from above slices through the milky clouds and lands on Earth, planting fear and curiosity in people across the world. Who are they? Why are they here? In Denis Villeneuve’s Sci-Fi film Arrival, an expert linguist helps an elite team try to communicate with extraterrestrials. Coming off of his successful Crime Drama, Sicario, Villeneuve tries his hand with Sci-Fi. With the help of such talented actors as Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, he creates something truly special.
Villeneuve lets Ted Chiang’s story shine with an intelligent script by Eric Heisserer that dares audiences to think. Before the aliens arrive, the main character, Louise, is fleshed out very well, allowing us to easily connect with her as the pivotal events arise. The juxtaposition of the story about the aliens and Louise’s story is so very well done, as they connect with each other in a unique way. The film is a slow burn, but the flames grow into a beautiful force of nature by the third act.
Is this a film that’s inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Day the Earth Stood Still? Yes, but it definitely stands on its own as a unique experience. One thing that sets it apart are the visuals, as they are simple, yet captivating. This is truly a film that doesn’t waste a single shot; everything has meaning, and is carefully put together. The cinematography, along with the balanced visual effects, compliment the compelling acting.
Amy Adams delivers a riveting, internalized performance playing Louise Banks, a brilliant linguist that helps in trying to communicate with the extraterrestrials that have landed on Earth. Adams is relatable in her fear, and her yearning to communicate rather than destroy. She is a lonely soul with an adventurous spirit, and it’s intriguing to watch her evolve as a character and unravel the mystery of the aliens. Without a doubt, she gives an award-worthy performance.
Jeremy Renner, playing a physicist named Ian Donnelly, plays off of Adams very well. His reactions to the extraordinary events at hand are not only comedic, but genuine. Ian and Louise make a great team, and are easy to root for. Forest Whitaker, playing Colonel Weber, is solid as the no-nonsense Colonel, but he doesn’t have too much to do. Overall, the cast works well to flesh out the story.
Arrival is a film that uses Sci-Fi elements to allow you to step back and admire the big picture, painted with strokes of fate, love, pain, and the power of communication. Arrival is a piece of art in a visual sense, but also in its narrative. We learn more about ourselves in this film than we do about them, as it allows us to see, in a new light, that the answer to obtaining peace is the purpose of life: to communicate, to connect.