Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Eric Heisserer
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min
On the surface, Arrival, lands in our theaters as a thinking person’s science fiction piece. A story about the subtle art of language when dealing with alien visitors. Simple questions like ‘Why are you here?’ become major obstacles, and words like ‘weapon’ have multiple meanings. On one side of this drama, we’ve got thoughtful professionals willing to deal with nuance in this regard, on the other, folks giving into their base fears ready to pull the trigger and start a war.
Eric Heisserer’s script does a brilliant job balancing out the science with the emotional core of the movie. And director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) sets the right tone and pace that elevates this story from a simple exploration of fear. Going into detail on that last point would mean spoilers and I won’t do that. I will, however, say this—Arrival isn’t Independence Day meets Contact. The growth of its central character, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) becomes the emotional core of the film. In this film, knowledge is power, but also heartbreaking.
Amy Adams anchors this film perfectly, and she is ably supported by Jeremy Renner. The supporting cast of characters don’t get a whole lot to do other than play typical archetypes in a film like this. The paranoid government agent, the frightened soldier and the foreign military leader. They are all present and quite honestly expected. The presence of these characters may seem a little clichéd to some, but I found them a necessary component in the story. Here, they support the central performance, and don’t distract from the larger points the film is trying to make.
This is the kind of film that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled by. As I unpacked Dr. Louise Banks’ journey, the power of this film continued to hit me. The choices she makes given the knowledge she receives are truly epic, and you’ll ask yourself if you could do the same.
I enjoyed this almost as much as I did Contact, and I REALLY enjoyed Contact. Don’t go into the theater expecting and alien invasion flick. Arrival is rated PG-13, but I don’t think younger audiences would be interested in this.
Director Denis Villeneuve. This guy directed one of my top five of 2015, Sicario, and also gave us, Enemy and Prisoners. He’s seriously good, and I’m glad he’s at the helm directing Blade Runner 2049.