Denis Villeneuve brings his sense for pacing and knack for creating thought-provoking cinema to the sci-fi realm with Arrival, an entry that is hands-down one of the best pictures of the year.
Arrival is equal parts science fiction, mystery and rumination. It dares to not only ask the question of what we would do if aliens suddenly parked themselves around the globe, it also dares to answer that question as honestly and realistically as possible. It’s for this reason that we meet Louise (Amy Adams) a brilliant linguist who finds herself called upon to find a way to communicate with the visitors.
We watch every agonizing and riveting moment of this process unfold as she works with a physicist (Jeremy Renner) and an Army Colonel (Forest Whitaker) to solve the puzzle of their appearance and intentions before humanity’s patience runs out and uninformed action puts everything at risk. And of course, to do this all for the United States before anyone else can manage it, lest someone else in the world gets there first and takes an undesirable course of action.
It’s cooperative, but competitive and the bureaucracy is rampant. At points the cogs in the machine move so slow as to actually cause anxiety for the viewer. It’s flat out fascinating to watch unfold and every moment is anchored by a measured performance from Amy Adams. Her Louise is a powerhouse, to be sure, but she’s also a civilian professor tossed into an international effort, and yes, asked to strut up to aliens and find a way to communicate with them. Woo, nerd powers! Let the idea of that task sink in for a moment. No Google translate, no dictionaries, no points of reference, no context. It’s all wit and nerve.
Arrival is wildly unique and exceptionally well-crafted. It’s a can’t miss for genre fans who arguably haven’t had an entry this strong since District 9. However, it also stands out as one of the best movies in 2016, in any genre. And yes, it’s the kind of movie you want to see in the theater first, it’s beautiful, arresting and you won’t quite believe where it takes you.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (based on the story written by)
Runtime: 1h, 56m
Release Date: November 11, 2016
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures