Arrival – 4 out of 5
First contact with an advance alien race is a pretty common trope in the world of science fiction. We often wonder what mankind would do and how our history would be altered if such an event occurred. Hopefully, this never happens when Trump is in office because he would immediately tweet out an insult about them (because he has the mentality of a child) and the aliens would immediately vaporize our world. When you have this familiar premise told over and over again it’s kinda hard to bring anything unique to the table and yet Arrival is doing that very thing.
|They're watching the aliens arrive on television so obviously the lights are dimmed|
for mood purposes...because why else would any college be so darkly lit, right? RIGHT?!?
Based on a 1998 short story by Ted Chiang, Arrival tells the story of how, without warning, the entire planet is one day visited by several large space crafts. World leaders and militaries scramble to try and identify if this is a threatening act or one of peace. Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) enlists the help of expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) in order to try and determine what exactly these beings want. Immediately, Banks sets to work on learning the travelers’ language and starts to communicate with them but all her work could be undone when paranoia reaches fevered pitches in other countries.
|"There on the horizon, a giant Reese's peanut butter egg!"|
Arrival isn’t like other first contact alien films as it directs its most obvious tension elsewhere and focuses instead on a different kind of drama. We’ve all seen the alien film where a lead up to violence is inevitable and mankind is going to do battle with creatures from beyond the moon but that element, while still present, isn’t the story’s main focus. Instead, the story is all about Banks’ journey to try and communicate with the beings and trying to understand why exactly they’ve come to Earth. I found myself completely absorbed with watching the character of Banks exhaust herself physically and mentally as she struggled to come to an understanding with the visitors. It was refreshing to see a film that involved alien beings not be a tale that is predictably working its way towards action but rather a drama about understanding and the hazards of miscommunication.
|"First thing we want you to do is to not teach them how to text. It's way to |
easy to misinterpret a text."
|She thought it would be funny to reenact Spock's|
death scene with the visitors.
The engaging story is only strengthened by the film’s pace. A previous film from director Denis Villeneuve was Prisoners and the way that film built and added to its drama was incredible. Villeneuve once again shows this skill in this feature as the tale builds and the hardships, trials and eventual joys of creating understanding between the two species takes place and ultimately ends up taking a frightening turn as emotions run high and misunderstandings overtake reason and thought. Finally, the story comes to an amazing climax when it is revealed why the aliens have arrived and what it means to Banks and the future of the human race. The story is already incredibly engrossing but the pace that everything unfolds only made it that much stronger and made it harder to turn away from.
|The aliens seem to have their own metal band.|
|This is a meaningful movie and the review has reflected|
that...but I have to mention that this looks like the
ship just pooped a little.
At its core, I feel the story is what really makes this film the attention-grabber it is but it wouldn’t have been anything if the cast wasn’t pulling their weight. Realistically, everyone but Adams are supporting players in very major ways. The focus of the story is Banks’ journey and how she engineered communication and the impact that breakthrough has on her. Now, that’s not me saying that the likes of Renner and Whitaker aren’t doing a good job because they are performing to the level of excellence they have showed in the past but they’re realistically not in the film that much. Adams, on the other hand, is just astounding in her role. Everything you see her go through—both success and failure—feels so authentic. In the same way the story just grabs you, Adams’ performance comes in the same way and is making the entire film probably one of the most interesting takes on the first contact trope I’ve ever watched.
|Seriously, when I first saw Renner in National Lampoon's Senior Trip, I never|
thought he would go on to have a fantastic career. And I'm glad he did because
Arrival is a rare alien-based sci-fi film that shows what would almost definitely happen if we were visited from beings from another planet. There are no ray guns, no Will Smith punching his welcomes to Earth, no Klaatus or Baradas or Niktos, there’s no wide-scale destruction porn but, instead, a simple and effective engaging tale about strangers attempting to communicate and how thin the line is that separates understanding from potential disaster. The tale takes its themes of context and communication and makes them dance beautifully in the form of learning from aliens but, at its heart, the film is all about the struggle of understanding and learning and that’s what makes it very striking.