Arrival (2016)

Arrival released back in November, but I’m only writing the review now, so you all can understand the level to which I need to upgrade my being-on-time skills. Nevertheless, I got to watch it on Blu-Ray, if that’s any consolation for me, anyway the theatres in India do not project over 2K.

The focus point of Arrival, are thees 12 mysterious UFOs touch down across the globe at seemingly random locations. A team headed by linguistics expert Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) is brought together to investigate these UFOs and their intent, in a race against time as the world perceives them as a threat to humanity.

If this plot sounds like that of a typical sci-fi movie, you’re in for some surprises. As for me, I am completely stunned after watching it. I recorded a first reaction on my Facebook page, on 3rd February. I was smitten. People knowing me would know my love for Sci-Fi, and Arrival takes it to a whole new level. This is not the adventure Sci-Fi genre, not the likes of Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or the more recent The Martian or even Gravity (not saying that they are less entertaining). But, Arrival has this peace in it despite having a very chaotic plot, and it leaves some loose ends for the viewers to speculate about. That is what I love.

Arrival, is a movie is that stays more focused on a single story even as it’s expanding its worldwide narrative. It is more about grief, time, communication and compassion than it is warp speed, and it’s a film that asks questions. How do we approach that which terrifies us? Why is it important to communicate through language and not action? The final act of “Arrival” gets to the big ideas of life. It’s a movie designed to simultaneously challenge viewers, move them and get them talking. And for the most part, it succeeds.

Amy Adams is confident and gives a committed performance as Louise, a linguistics expert brought in on the day those 12 unidentified flying objects enter Earth’s orbit. She works with the military and a scientist named Ian (Jeremy Renner), Louise seeks to find the answer to a very simple question: What do you want?

The Heptapods, as the arriving aliens are eventually called, speak in sounds that resemble whale noises at times, at the beginning I thought that these creatures were whales, as one can’t see them very clearly through the misty translucent glass barrier. Luckily Louise quickly learns that written language is the way to communicate, even deciphering the complex way the interstellar tourists write.

We are exposed repeatedly to the darkness in Louise’s life. The opening scenes detail the birth, brief life and death of a child. Throughout, Adams imbues Louise with a quiet, effective emotional undercurrent that’s essential to the film’s success. The cinematography of the film is exceptionally great. And the CGI is good throughout, except one scene near the end of the film, which is a complete disaster.

But, having said all the good things, Arrival is an example of an ambitious, accomplished filmmaking that deserves an audience. It’s a film that forces viewers to reconsider that which makes us truly human, and the impact of grief on that timeline of existence. At its best, and largely through Adams’ performance, the film proposes that we’ve all had those days in which communication breaks down and fear over the unknown sets in. And it is the best of us who persevere, get up from being knocked down and repair that which is broken.

I’m going with 4.5/5 stars for Denis Villeneuve’s film Arrival. It is a film, that will touch your hearts, despite being a si-fi film. Watch it before the Oscars are announced on 26th February.