Science fiction is a versatile genre. Most of the time it is silly, spectacular escapism; but sometimes it can aspire to greatness and give us insights into what makes humanity tick.
“Arrival” is high-minded sci-fi at its best and lands as one of the best movies of the year.
The setup is pretty standard stuff; aliens come to earth with an unknown agenda, usually with death rays to follow. But not this time.
Several crafts land at random sites around the globe shocking mankind not only with their presence but with their passiveness.
Being humans, we first activate our militaries and the countries of the world get busy trying to understand why they have arrived.
In the United States, our best hope with communicating with the aliens lies in expert linguist Dr. Louise Banks, brilliantly played by Amy Adams.
Louise is haunted by the loss of her daughter and Adams plays her with an air of lonely detachment that finds her perfectly suited to be the person with the awesome responsibility of translating an alien language.
She is recruited to the job by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) and partnered with scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who serves as a good “gee-whiz” foil to Louise’s methodical approach.
Naturally, the stakes are raised as tension builds around the world and cracks begin to form in society as different countries race to be the first to decipher the intentions of the mysterious visitors.
“Arrival” was directed by Denis Villeneuve, the moody and atmospheric director behind “Prisoners” and “Sicario.”
He really outdoes himself here as this movie feels simultaneously grandiose and deeply personal. Also, the movie looks great. The aliens and their craft inspire the right amount of awe and wonderment and no moments ever feel over-the-top or forced.
Even though this is a science fiction movie with lots of terrific special effects, what makes “Arrival” great is its thought-provoking, heartbreaking plot and some tremendous acting, especially by Adams.
She is the heart and soul of this movie and the work she does here is absolutely award-worthy. Renner also gives a nice performance and serves as the audience surrogate at times when the plot gets especially knotty.
“Arrival” is an expertly made film that will give you plenty to think about after the credits roll. That is science fiction at its finest and is not to be missed.
“Arrival” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.