Film review : Arrival


Alon Amir


Arrival (2016) is a sci-fi thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve which takes place in Montana, USA. The director of the film is Denis Villeneuve, a Canadian director known for Sicario (2015) and Prisoners (2013). He is also the director behind the fantastic sequel to Blade Runner; Blade Runner 2049.

Linguist Dr. Louise Banks, portrayed by Amy Adams, is chosen to investigate the arrival of 12 unidentified spaceships in various places around the globe. She is to translate their pictographic language and find their purpose on earth with the help of scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Are they evil? Are they good? Ultimately, Louise’s and Ian’s relationship, stereotypically, turns romantic, the compulsory action of any movie. The plot thickens when precognition is blended into the mix and an eventual, astonishing, unanticipated plot twist combined with a  mind-blowing conclusion are  make the movie worth watching 

The adapted screenplay by Eric Heisserer is based on the Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. The plot provides new perspective on the conventional science fiction movie, something new for me personally at least. A new concept with new ideas, which is refreshing to see. The movie is warm and  emotional, forcing you to think with your brain and feel with your heart.

Adams’ performance is ideal for the role of Dr. Banks, and she prevents the story from potentially becoming foolish and frivolous which it could have developed into with a less convincing performance. Her believable performance earned her an Academy Award nomination in 2017 for best actress. She brings a genuine and serious tone to the film, convincing you that she is actually communicating with precognitive octopus-looking aliens.

In contrast to the typical sci-fi movie, Arrival drifts away from overused explosions and heavy artillery, instead highlighting thinking and an eerie atmosphere that draws us in. The plot and film as a whole creates an emotional impact. It is not solely an action packed climax or full of  special effects and frightening aliens. The music and sound builds incredible tension and an uncanny feeling earning the film an Academy Award for its sound editing. The sound was extremely positive factor for me.  

Looking past Adams’ performance, the magnificent sound editing and the compelling plot, the pace of the movie does falter during the middle part of the film. While there should be some aspects of rising action, the movie drags on with meaningless dialogue and no new discoveries. While this does bore some – I did lose my friend during this segment of the film when she decided to take a quick nap –  the captivating storyline of the movie makes up for the momentary loss of pace.

The theme of the movie is time. Time being a relative and non-linear concept that cannot be counted or arranged. While this t is hard to grasp and to accept in real life, it is fascinating to experience it  through a movie and through Adams’ character, Dr. Banks.

Arrival is worthy of a watch! Prepare to take a journey into the extraordinary while being entertained, on the verge of tears and astonished all at the same moment.

Rating: ⅘ aliens