When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – led by expert linguist Louise Banks – is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.
Would you believe me if I told you I have no idea what to write about Arrival, not knowing if I’m supposed to like or hate it? Well, it’s true, I really don’t. Director wunderkind Denis Villeneuve is still a blank page, at least for me he is, not having seen any of his movies yet. (Sicario is scheduled next but haven’t watched it yet.) Just heard that he’s oh so good. But honestly, in these postfactual times of mass confusion and steered mass perception, should we believe such unqualified opinions just because someone with a supposed knowledge about movies tells us so? And should we put any trust in a rather fantastic IMDb rating of 8.1? Hmmm…
Enough with the philosphical questions, let’s better look at the picture, shall we? Ok, starting with Villeneuve let me tell you we were really impressed with his peculiar cinematic style and storytelling. This is a aliens/first contact movie like no other. In most scenes it reminded us more on an independent arthouse movie than on the typical science fiction fare.
We really enjoyed these aspects of the movie. And eventhough Villeneuve takes his time and tells the simple story in a straight line with our scientists doing the same repetitious stuff over and over again. It’s a study in patience and thoroughness that is presented to us in a very calm, almost meditative and quiet way.
The plot is a different thing altogether tho. Once you’ve figured out the aliens function on a whole different scheme than humans and perceive time as a circle rather than a straight line, the whole thing becomes clear and obvious. That’s the whole trick of the screenplay. And regrettably (nearly) its only one.
The rest of the screenplay is fairly standard fare, incl. some international aggressions and overly zealous miltary guys and the typical paranoid CIA agent n shit. Pretty forseeable, same as the solution happening in the last second. In Arrival Denis Villeneuve and his actors were clearly much better than the material they had to work with.
Talking about actors, they were all around good to very good. My friend Forest Whitaker was great as the typical Forest Whitaker while Jeremy Renner slowly becomes great in portraying characters. He filled his sidekick role with aplomb and made the best of the limited role he had to play. He was – and this is the best he could achieve with his role – believable.
Most outstanding tho was Amy Adams as she played the complex, multilayered character of Prof. Banks to perfection, jumping into the many flashbacks to different stages of her past life. Great performance.
Production values were … I dunno. Apart from some totals showing the UFO landing sites, pretty much everything was done on soundstages and with lots of cgi. But all very convincingly, with even jawdroppingly eery production design at times. This again shows Villeneuve’s mastery of directing even huge projects like Arrival. He indeed managed to marry advertising aesthetics with arthouse nitty gritty and perfectly projects the whole surreal, angsty atmosphere under which the humans operate in these conditions.
CONCLUSION: That’s more or less everything I’ve gotta say about one of the arguably bestest movies ever made. Hubby and me both found Arrival suffered from the very modern sickness of style over substance, of package over content. Not even Villeneuve and a very good cast was completely able to lift Arrival out of its hole. Once you’ve figured out how the aliens are ticking it’s not even half as clever as they are trying to make it appear. And the big reveal about Louise Banks’s ex-husband isn’t such a big reveal afterall and fairly inconsequential for the overall plot.
On the other hand we gotta admit we weren’t bored for a single second and watched the whole movie with more or less baited breath. That’s again only due to great cinematography and direction and a more than solid cast.
In the end it’s gotta be said that Arrival, despite it looking like an ad for instant coffee or life insurance, is a real film. A good one even. I just think the 8.1 rating is overdone. I wouldn’t even give it a 7.something rating. A 6.something seems about fair.
WATCH IT? YES! If you get the chance do yourself the favour and watch Arrival. Best in a sober condition, and preferably alone or with your significant other. Avoid loud unruly crowds of drunken hooligans. And when watching a rather quiet, thinking movie like Arrival avoid them particularly.
And, guys, for the last time: It’s Dehnii Villnöff, not Dennis Villehnuuf. =^.^= Pfff, anglophiles.
WANNA SEE THE TRAILER?
WHAT THE REAL CRITICS THINK:
And here Mark goes maye a bit off the rail:
Alachia got it figured out, as she mentions a simple point the other reviewers have missed: Science Fiction is always about humans, about what it means to be human.