Wednesday, 16 November 2016


Science-fiction movies have become a lot different to what the genre is supposed to be about. Instead of asking philosophical questions about the nature of man, like we see in Forbidden Planet and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the genre has become another extension of the action genre with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Independence Day. Denis Villeneuve's latest movie, however, puts the sci-fi elements firmly in the backseat and focuses instead on the human involvement in an alien arrival on Earth.

The world plunges into chaos as twelve mysterious alien vessels land at various spots around the globe. While the public starts to question why they came and why the aliens haven't reached out, the militaries of the country that each vessel is in becomes proactive about looking for answers. Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is contacted by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to lead the team that will attempt to speak to the aliens. With her to try and interpret the answers is theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Lurking in the background is CIA Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg), who seems to make his decisions based on what the Russian and Chinese forces are doing in regard to their alien vessels.

It is incredibly hard to talk about this film in broad brush strokes so as to not ruin the film, because so much of makes Arrival great is in its detail. The whole theme of language that runs throughout the film is pretty fantastic because it makes the point of how vital language is to our culture. This is something that we take for granted everyday and never stop to think how everything would fall apart without it. Even the way the film breaks down simple sentence structure really makes you think. And if what I just said makes you roll your eyes, then you probably weren't thinking that this movie was going to be a two hour linguistics class, which it kind of is. Because of this, the movie works at its own pace and isn't hurried along in the way that other movies feel the need to. There was one explosion, but I feel like this was included just because the studio said there should be one.

The other fantastic thing about this movie is that it has a female lead who isn't overshadowed by her male co-stars that seems to happen when a blockbuster has a female lead. The whole way through, Amy Adams commands the screen and she doesn't get shafted by the male characters thinking they know better. Another good turn that this movie does with her is around her recruitment to the mission. Sci-fi movies have the trope of the team of experts being chosen just because they happen to be lying around, but here Louise has to prove that she is the top person for the job. Adams performance is also one of the best I've seen her give. This isn't a spoiler, but the film begins with a whole montage of her raising her daughter and ultimately has to give her up because she dies from a rare disease. This montage lasts a total of two minutes and really lets you get a feel for who the character is through an amazing performance.

The writing did have a few dodgy areas that felt a bit jarring. Once the film gets going and the team starts to be able to communicate with the aliens, there is a montage showing them learning the language with a voice over about their language. Instead of having linguist Laura giving this monologue, it is Ian, the theoretical physicist doing it. It just felt like a weird logical point not to have the linguist character not talking about language. The was line where the on site doctor bluntly asked Louise if she was pregnant. This does have a point in the movie but it was delivered in a bit of a harsh way and takes you out of the film for just a second.

I'm going to give Arrival the top score for its originality and ability to distinguish itself for other films being released in the genre. Villeneuve is able to focus on the human element of the film which is something that so many alien movies are unable to do. The threat in the movie doesn't come from the other, but rather those we are familiar. Also it had a twist that ended up making me second guess myself.

1 comment:

  1. ...but what does she say in Chinese at the end to convince the General to refrain from attacking?


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