Director Denis Villeneuve has managed to become one of the top working directors today and also one of my favorites. From Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario, he is on an amazing roll that should hopefully continue with next year’s sequel to Blade Runner. His latest is Arrival, which is his first attempt at genre filmmaking, which thankfully goes much, much deeper.
Strange alien ships have touched down on several random locations across the world. Their purpose is not immediately known, so the military recruits Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned linguist, to lead a team in order to understand the purpose of these aliens and to see if they pose a threat.
She is joined by Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) a scientist, who sees their mission as a friendly competition to see who can crack the code first. Urgency is always present as Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) watches each encounter, but needs quick results before the militaries of the world step in with any “preventive measures.”
Arrival is a breath of fresh air. It’s not your typical alien invasion flick. Instead, it trusts the audience to watch the story unfold in a unique and original way. It may be perceived as slow, but it’s far more methodical in its approach. In a way, it feels akin to last year’s Ex Machina. It allows time to be spent on an amazing character and her process of learning. I not only felt the frustration, fear and discovery she feels, but also had time to admire the perfect cinematography of Bradford Young.
Many studios struggle with placing actresses at the head of action franchises. Arrival is the gold standard of what a great female led genre film needs to be. Amy Adams is captivating in possibly her greatest performance. Renner is also solid as a glorified sidekick who is constantly in awe of everything happening around him.
It’s rare that any movie that revolves around a linguist and a scientist would be so watchable, but the writing and direction make Arrival unforgettable. I’m awaiting my second viewing because I’m still collecting my thoughts on it. However, the fact that I have thought about it every day since seeing it, is a very good sign.
I can’t recommend this to everyone, nor would I. Arrival is not a popcorn alien movie. It is the anti-Independence Day Resurgence. The originality may turn off general audiences, but if you enjoy deliberate and introspective experiences, Arrival is the movie you’ve been waiting for. A-