When 12 strange alien crafts appear in random locations around the globe, linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are sent to make first contact. With instructions to find out what the alien’s purpose is, Louise and Ian develop a relationship with the creatures, but when the language is misinterpreted, counties around the globe have to decide whether or not the aliens are a threat.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario), Arrival is a unique alien movie. In what I feel is a mash up of Sphere and The Abyss, Arrival isn’t Hollywood-ized and is very realistic and thinky. Now, don’t get me wrong, when I say it is “thinky,” I don’t mean “Inception” thinky. I just mean that it is scientific and something that causes you to use your brain. This is NOT flashy or an Independent Day style of an alien movie.
The best thing about this movie is it is something you really haven’t seen before. It is simple yet it has you guessing the whole time. The fact that you don’t know what the aliens are or what they want keeps you interested from beginning to end. However, the worst thing about this movie is that same fact. It simply is about 2 people talking to some aliens. We learn about their language and see patterns in the universe on how we can communicate with extra terrestrial beings, but for a 2 hour movie, it can drag, and for the first hour or so it does. It isn’t until there is a question of threat that this movie truly becomes interesting, which isn’t horrible, but I wish there was another layer to this film.
The acting in this movie is very well done as Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker are all veterans who have been Academy darlings. They all do wonderful jobs, however, I don’t see any of these performances as impressive or special. These people are talented and they show their acting skills as they are known for.
The “meat and potatoes” of this movie is the ending (obviously) especially for a Villeneuve film. I actually think I need to see Arrival again because I’m still digesting the ending. The way the movie ends isn’t shocking or eye-opening, however, it leaves you in awe. It has a calming sense of enlightenment that still has me pondering. In one sense, it is special and unique, but in another, it is pretty plain and has no true purpose. Without giving that much in the spoiler department, the ending leaves us with the question “why?”. I still am not sure as to why this whole story concluded the way it did, but if you keep an open mind, it can be inspiring.
At the end of the day, Arrival is a well made movie that might be more simple then many are expecting. It is thinky yet calming all at the same time. The actors keep the film interesting for as long as they can, but ultimately it will be the ending (and how people interpret it) that will be the deciding factor. Co-starring Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Tzi Ma.
7/10 Stars – Simple, yet thinky, all at the same time, Arrival is a unique alien movie that hinges on its calming and enlightening ending.