Movie Review: Arrival

Published 9:54 am Monday, November 21, 2016


In “Arrival”, from director Denis Villeneuve, aliens have landed on Earth and an invasion is imminent- or is it?

12 monolithic spacecrafts hover above locales around the globe and have all the world’s superpowers up in arms. Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned linguist, is called in by the U.S. military to try and communicate with these extraterrestrials to find out their purpose on our planet.

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In an all-around strong and nuanced performance, Adams brings an emotional human element to a story that delves into heady sci-fi territory. Her scientist counterpart, played by Jeremy Renner, provides a solid foil and some humor to an otherwise serious script.

“Arrival” is certainly not “Independence Day”, and it’s all the better for it. Instead of watching the White House and New York City get leveled, “Arrival” presents deep concepts on which to ruminate, elevating this film lightyears away from standard popcorn fare.

“Arrival” feels surprisingly realistic (or at least as realistic as a movie about aliens can feel). Glimpses of news broadcasts and international riots breaking out in response to the touchdown of these crafts are shown on televisions in the background and sometimes more overtly. And, let’s be honest, mass hysteria would probably be our reaction to the news that humans are not alone.

Shadowy and muted cinematography from Bradford Young (“Selma”, “A Most Violent Year”) adds to the film’s ominous overtones. Masterful shots of the tiny humans next to the enormous spaceships make us realize (if we didn’t already) that, as far as the universe goes, we very well could be among the puniest creatures inhabiting it.

Slower pacing occasionally hinders the film, but it’s all worth it by the head-spinning climax. “Arrival” takes its time to establish its universe; after all, it’s a novel concept not based on a pre-existing franchise.

If this is the way the world ends, at least we’re going down with style and substance.