Cert: 12A Runtime: 116 mins Director: Denis Villeneuve Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien, Tzi Ma and Forest Whitaker
Why are they here?
Denis Villeneuve is probably one of the best working directors today. He has gone from making rather personal films to the upcoming Blade Runner 2. I am rather concerned he may become another studio stooge rather than the imaginative filmmaker that made Enemy. Arrival is his latest film, probably a great step before Blade Runner. It has received very favourable reviews and potentially one of the better movies of this sluggish year. So what is Arrival about? When twelve spacecraft land at seemingly random locations all over Earth, US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) recruits two experts to handle the ‘first contact’. Military scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) is teamed with Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – a linguist whose mission is to determine the aliens’ intentions. This is an urgent task. Although the craft appear to pose no immediate threat, their arrival sparks widespread public alarm and heightens international tensions between old foes. What Louise doesn’t anticipate is that the work will illuminate a tragedy in her own past.
The dread-laden music, thoughtful cinematography, subtlety and pace imply something deeply intelligent and thoughtful is about to happen. It oozes Villeneuve style and flair. Arrival asks the audience to decipher its own cinematic language, whilst Louise deciphers the aliens language. Will you have the same emotional journey that Louise does? Villeneuve clearly hopes so – but that all depends entirely on how much the film pulls you in emotionally (it didn’t for me I’m afraid). Beyond the emotion it tries to show, its ideas and ponderings don’t have much substance – there’s no real insight, take-home message, honesty about the human condition or anything else to really chew on beyond a few reflective thoughts.
I think the thing that makes it seem more intelligent/emotional than it actually is, is the clever use of flashbacks. It has a powerful effect – juxtaposing some current situation with some whimsical emotional moment. Any great film should have a few interesting answers to that question. With Arrival, I’m struggling to find an honest answer that does justice to the quality of the production. The script really over shines the whole film. Amy Adams does a great job as always, but I do feel like she does carry the whole film. Jeremy Renner was very disposable and could have been played by anyone! Forest Whitaker falls under the same category. The way this review falls out it sounds like I hated it. I didn’t at all, but Arrival left me rather hollow and I had no emotion leaving it. Villeneuve made a solid film no doubt, but when you compare Arrival to his other films it’s not his best. Arrival is worth anyones time though, it truly is a great sci fi.