Without having watched any trailers, knowing almost nothing about the plot and having read no reviews, I decided to buy a ticket to Arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi film, starring Amy Adams and
Hawkeye Jeremy Renner. It was a very surprising experience, as it quickly became one of my favourite movies of the year.
Let’s start by saying this is not the typical sci-fi flick. It’s not action packed, special effect heavy or fast paced. In fact, it is a quite slow movie, where events unfold very gradually. Do not expect an Independence Day kind of spectacle, as when aliens come down to Earth there is no battle. Amy Adams’ character tries to develop a way of communicating with them instead. Therefore, Arrival is a conversation-based movie most of the time.
In such a film, the script plays a massively important role, of course, and I was very pleased with how phenomenal the screenplay was. It is an adaptation of a novel (named Story of Your Life”), but it works beautifully by itself. Enough information is given for viewers to understand the motivations of every character, including the aliens, but nothing feels spoon-fed.
My main problem with Arrival is the character of Jeremy Renner. While interesting and necessary for some certain plot-points, he is completely useless most of the time. He worked with Amy Adams, but he is limited to saying “oh, you’re right”, without contributing much to what was happening. It isn’t terrible, but I do feel he could have been more relevant. However, both protagonists did a great job with their performances, especially Adams, whose feelings are impressively delivered throughout the entire movie. Many side characters are very well portrayed too, which is not as usual as it should be in films nowadays, in my opinion.
Every shot in the movie is breath-taking. The cinematography is beautiful, and the visual design of every element, creative and interesting. The language the aliens write, the shape of their ships… It’s not what we’re used to seeing, everything was designed thinking outside the box, and that gives the movie a very mysterious and intriguing aura.
Without entering spoiler territory, I’ll say that one of the moments I enjoyed most was the mind-twisting climax. Many have said that it’s difficult to understand and a second viewing is necessary, but I didn’t have any problems to follow what was going on. It’s not as mind-bending as Inception or Interstellar, but it does have a Nolan vibe to it, which is incredibly enjoyable. Some scenes that seem to be bland make more sense and prove to be essential to the plot in the end, so the climax is greatly satisfying.
All in all, Arrival is one of the best, most interesting and well directed films of the year. It’s much deeper than the average alien movie, as the centre of the story is not a battle or conflict, but a very well written character, incredibly portrayed by Adams. It’s touching, intriguing and mesmerising, and one of the most surprising film experiences of all year. 9/10