Denis Villeneuve is one of the most talented directors working today and has put out hit after hit. Even if this is only the second film that I’ve seen from the director on the back of last year’s fantastic Sicario, he already seems like the perfect person to helm a Blade Runner sequel if they must make a Blade Runner sequel, which apparently, they seem to be going ahead with right now. Previously, most of Villeuve’s efforts have largely been thrillers in the form of Prisoners and Enemy, but now he starts to turn his attention to the science fiction genre with great results, because although Arrival is a slow burn it’s still a very effective one, helped by performances from a terrific cast that make it an absolute must-watch movie.
Twelve alien crafts have landed around the Earth at seemingly random different locations simultaneously. Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called up by the military after working with them in the past to attempt to translate the aliens’ messages to determine whether or not they are a threat to us and to attempt to interpret their alien language before a miscommunication leads to war. This isn’t an Independence Day-esque guns a-blazing summer blockbuster and there’s a reason why it was released in November as opposed to the middle of the summer. It’s quieter, although there is plenty of tension here, and it serves as a nice slow-burn mystery that unfolds incredibly well. That’s not to say that there aren’t explosions, but Villeneuve takes a far more complex approach to them then say Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich. The pace moves slowly and effectively, and thanks to an excellent score, everything comes to a head in an incredibly strong finale that really pays off with a great emotional impact on the audience. It may confuse a few people, but also has the ability to bring audiences to tears at the same time.
Adams and Renner both put in great performances in Arrival. Both characters, Louise Banks and Ian Donnelly, find themselves at the centre of the action, are given some great development, Banks in particular, but Donnelly is fleshed out effectively. Adams here once again puts in another incredible performance and on the back of her equally good performance in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, you have to think that she’s going to be in serious contention to get that Best Actress award this year. She certainly deserves the nomination at least, because both performances here represent Adams at the top of her game.
The supporting cast are also pretty solid, with Forest Whitaker being the most prominent member of this as U.S. Colonel Weber. The film examines the problem of having aliens approach a planet with no single form of government, and how easy a misinterpretation of one word could cause events to spiral out of control. It explains the importance of sitting down and talking to one another before going to war, and the battle between the more aggressive military members and the ones wanting to give peace a try comes full circle by the end of the film, making things even harder for collaboration when the Military are still trying to figure things out themselves.
The visuals are amazing and once again shows why Villeneuve looks like the perfect choice to do Blade Runner 2064. The effects and cinematography (Bradford Young deserves an Oscar for his cinematography work here) look fantastic for the most part and you get a clear sense of visual scope and the atmosphere that the film creates really plays to its strength. The score from Jóhann Jóhannsson is amazing and adds yet another layer of depth to this movie, with everything coming together well for an excellent experience.
Arrival is a film that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. It’s bold, inventive and thought-provoking, full of some great ideas and even greater performances. If you’re going to the cinema this week, this is the film that you should be going to see. It’s also worth noting that the less you know about this movie going in the better, because there’s a pretty awesome twist that you’ll want to go in without having spoiled to you, and it really makes the whole movie experience all that more awesome.