Arrival (12A)

Becky van Leeuwan fills us in on Denis Villeneuve's newest feature; will it live up to his previous work, or even surpass it?

Becky van Leeuwan
21st November 2016

Once every little while a film comes out that leaves you completely dazed. You cannot just watch it; you need to rewatch it at least once. But then you might want to rewatch it even more. You need to (and you will) think about it and discuss it. But above all, you will have a small existential crisis after watching it. 2010’s Inception, 2014’s Interstellar, and 2015’s Ex Machina can be considered as some recent examples of this, and now Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival can be added to the list as well.

In Arrival, twelve extra-terrestrial ships appear in twelve different spots all over the world – spots that do not appear to have any connection, except that in all these places Sheena Easton had a hit in 1980. Nobody knows anything about these aliens. The ‘shells’ stay in those places, and every eighteen hours a hatch opens to let humans in. It is up to Amy Adams’ Dr Louise Banks, with the help of Jeremy Renner’s physicist Ian Donnelly, to discover what these so-called ‘heptapods’ want. However, before this important question can be asked, the language barrier needs to be broken, and figuring out a language that isn’t in any way similar to those spoken on planet Earth is not that easy.

Jeremy Renner called Arrival a “thinking person’s sci-fi film that is thoughtful and emotional”, and there might not be a better way to describe it. The film is impressive in every single way. It comments on our society in many different ways, but its main theme about communication is an eye-opener, and shows how important talking to one another is. At the same time, Arrival unsettles you with every single shot, keeping you at the tip of your seat throughout the story.

"There is nothing wrong with the script either, as none of the lines feel irrelevant"

If that isn’t enough praise yet, Amy Adams’ performance is absolutely amazing. Her Dr Banks is a valued professor who is dealing with a traumatic experience. When Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber calls upon her to decipher the alien language, she is thrown into a stressful situation that she calmly handles with tact and intelligence, while being afraid and bewildered at the one hand and frustrated with the situation and the separate world leaders at the other. Adams is able to create an incredible depth to her character that many recent cinematic characters seem to miss. 

The rest of the cast is stunning as well, and there is nothing wrong with the script either, as none of the lines feel irrelevant. Everything presented is significant to the plot, and the amazing score by Jóhann Jóhannsson adds to the thick atmosphere of the film while chilling you to the bone. The story’s twists and turns bring the film to a whole different conclusion than can be imagined at the start, and create a new and different road for films in the sci-fi genre.

Arrival is an alien invasion film like no other, balancing a thought-provoking story with wonderful images. It is unique, and might be one of the best sci-fi films to date.

More like this: Inception (2010)

Rating: 10/10

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