I’m mad that I didn’t see Arrival when it was first released. The new film from Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners) was one of my most anticipated of 2016 for obvious reasons. It’s a restrained science fiction film who directed one of the most restrained and best action films of the 21st century in Sicario last year. However, this is not an original story, as its based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. But Arrival is one of the more refreshing and invigorating sci-fi tales in recent memory, and it’s also incredibly timely given the political climate in the past year. If it’s still playing, go check this one out. Here’s the review.
Amy Adams plays a linguist at a university when her world and the rest of it stops. Aliens have arrived on Earth, and they’ve set their ships on certain parts of the planet all over. The lone ship in the United States has landed in a field in Montana, and Adams’s Louise is contacted by the United States Army to serve as the linguist to help decipher the reason why they’ve arrived on earth. Louise is accompanied by a military officer (Forest Whitaker) and Ian (Jeremy Renner) a physicist. Adams and Renner must find out why the aliens are here quickly, as the entire world is on edge and military action is being threatened left and right.
Villeneuve directed a screenplay adaptation by Eric Heisserer, who’s resume consists almost entirely of subpar horror sequels/remakes (Final Destination 5, The Thing prequel, etc). The screenplay doesn’t really standout compared to the other aspects in Arrival, but it’s a solid screenplay. I like that Heisserer chose telling this story through character development instead of action like some filmmakers/screenwriters might’ve resorted to. Villeneuve, like his last couple of films, focuses his camera and direction primarily on his leads for this film, with Adams at the forefront. I think we can all say that Amy Adams is this generation’s Meryl Streep, in that nearly every performance she gives is going to be incredible. Even her work in the Superman films is always memorable, even if her characters aren’t the strongest.
Adams plays the character of Louise as a woman who’s experienced a good deal of grief and happiness in her life (which I won’t get into). Adams does an incredible job of playing this character, and it’s one of her strongest performances to date. Unfortunately, the Best Actress race might be a bit too strong for Adams to finally win that Oscar that she’s been nominated so many times for, but hopefully she’ll be nominated for this wonderful performance.
Jeremy Renner also does some fine work in the film, even if it feels like every other character he’s played on-screen in the past few years. It’s not a bad thing because Renner is very good at playing this everyday-man role, but it’s worth pointing out. I still enjoy seeing Renner on-screen, so you won’t see me complaining. Forest Whitaker does some fine supporting work as the military general, and Michael Stuhlberg is fine as the agent/corporate type who’s in charge of making sure everything goes according to plan. It’s not a massive cast, but it’s a memorable one nonetheless.
The social commentary that occurs throughout the duration of this film shouldn’t be coincidental. Cable news is on or played throughout the film as it reports the fear and anger that many have toward these aliens coming into the planet. Some outlets are fearing that the aliens could do harm toward the human inhabitants or something along those lines. It’s this type of fear that blurs between the real-world and the world of Arrival. The United States just elected a candidate for president who ran on a platform of fear/hatred for others coming into the country (well, the popular vote would say different about that outcome, but that’s a post for another day). This is a big Hollywood release that I feel is worth seeing just for the political commentary for it all, and I think all of us could learn something while watching this film, no matter your political affiliation.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Arrival. Denis Villeneuve continues to b one of the finest filmmakers working today, and this is another home-run for the Canadian filmmaker. The Blade Runner sequel that he’s directing (which will be released next fall) should be in good hands. Amy Adams also continues to be one of the finest actors not only working today, but just in general. She’s kind of a revelation in this film, and I’m hoping that she continues to get awards attention for this wonderful performance. This is a better science fiction film than Rogue One, so if Arrival is still playing in your neck of the woods, go check it out.