Thanks to a local cinema putting on a one off screening / catch up opportunity in this peak time of film awards I was finally able to catch up with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.
I missed it first time round and with digital/dvd release in the UK not scheduled until March Arrival was scheduled to be the gap in my Oscar Best Picture contenders. I was so thankful for the opportunity to catch up with this film and driving home my smile was wide as I reflected on some of the brilliance I had just witnessed.
My love of sci-fi movies stretches the whole way back to my first childhood encounter with E.T. Other worlds and their inhabitants have always grabbed my interest. Equally our exploration of the unknown is one of those tropes that, when executed well, can hold my attention without waiver. Recently The Martian and Interstellar really got my head spinning and wondering at the expanses of our universe, our desire to explore and our inbuilt need to learn more about it.
So how does Arrival compare in this regard? Well a few days later and I’m still enthralled about what I’ve seen and revelling not only in the spectacle but also the intelligence of this award worthy film.
Twelve alien vessels have landed on Earth in various locations and refreshingly are not hovering over iconic landmarks or cityscapes. These vessels have picked isolated spots, away from great numbers o humanity, seeking humanity to come to them. The question still remains though as to why they have come, what do they want and if indeed they come in peace?
With the security and armed forces scrambling to answer these questions they reach out to Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistics expert recruited to attempt decipher the groans and clicks emitted by these ‘heptapods’ who kindly grant windows of audience with their human hosts. Working alongside the theoretical physics of Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) the pair find themselves in a race against time to decipher the language as other parts of the world move all to quickly to fear and mistrust.
The trouble I have in writing about this film is that to mention certain moments would verge into spoiler territory. The best way to see Arrival is with as little prior knowledge as possible.
I will say that this is not an alien shoot em up movie that is so regularly churned out by Hollywood such as Independence Day: Resurgence for example. This film has far more intelligence and grace than that. This is a film that dwells in subtlety and understated performances, particularly in the case of Amy Adams. Some moments in this film will undoubtedly enter the pantheon of great sci-fi because of this gentle performance. Adams gazes into the mists in which the aliens dwell in awe and wonder. Her slight smile at their first communication, not to mention the moment the human party as a whole enter the ship of the visitors.
Arrival is also a timely film. More than ever the white noise of social media ranting and bemoaning fills our ears and hearts. Arrival cries for our world to communicate.
This is a film that begs us not to rush to arms and instead extend arms in friendship.
This is a film that asks for communication but also begs for us to listen.
Not only listening to hear what is being said but perhaps even more importantly what is not being said.
I loved this film! I will return to it time and again and bask in its message to remind me how to communicate subtly and with grace in a world where shouting loudest and reacting first is everyone’s main concern.
Arrival is released on DVD/download in then UK in March 2017.