Film Review – Arrival (2016)

Communication is the greatest gift anyone can have, from body language to actually talking to one and other. Sadly these days society uses this gift to abuse or use them for ulterior motives. In Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival the relationship of humanity is put to the test thanks to emergence of the mysterious aliens.

In 2020 we seem to have forgotten about the art of communicating with one and other. Regardless of the colour our skin, gender, sexuality, religion, culture or even political views, we are all the same, humans. Sadly the world today we seem use these factors to attack, ostracise people. Our little planet is more unstable, toxic and things are not helped thanks to the leader of the biggest demcocracy of the world, Donald J Trump. He sprouts his racist, xenophobic rhetoric freely on a daily basis.

Villeneuve’s film may not deliver answers to the nastiness that plagues the world, it’s a timely reminder it’s good to talk before it’s too late. What we don’t understand, we should and educate yourself you might just learn something new.

Arrival is adapted from Ted Chiang‘s short story, ‘Story Of Your Life‘ from 1998. The film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. Louise (Adams) is an limguist professor who becomes enlisted to lead a group of investigators for the U.S army to discover why extraterrestrial aliens have just touchdown in various cities around the world.

Are they here to invade us? Hoping to unravel the mystery of their visit as the world is on the verge of a global war. To save mankind Louise must take steps to communicate with them.

If your looking for an action packed science fiction film, your looking in the wrong place. This is no War Of The Worlds or The Day The Earth Stood Still (though the latter film does share a connection of unexpected visitors). There is also the small matter of the military wanting quick answers especially with war looming. This won’t be a quick repsonse which stacks the pressure on Louise,  especially when the military getting itchy feet who are eager to response with fire. Can you call Arrival a science fiction or are these ships mirrors that are reflecting humanity?

Arrival is a tricky is a tricky film to talk about without spoiling it. This review might feel light on reasons, this is one time less is more.  What we can say is the film is more interested in language and communication or it’s technical term Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. The study of language and how it determines the way you think. For someone who has worked in several countries which Enhlish is not the main language it’s frustrating not understanding. Even the basic, when you do try and adapt, the outcome is intriguing.

If anything Arrival plays on humanity’s fear and paranoia driven more on conspiracy theories as well as beaucracy. Outside the war mongering, the film is also about grief learning this quickly in the opening scene.In a voiceover Louise says  “I used to think this was the beginning of the story”. First seeing her loving her daughter , her hating her mother, becoming sick and dying.

Denis Villeneuve has crafted a film that asks for your patience. Bradford Young’s cinematography is gorgeously fluid, claustrophobic, uneasy and unnerving. Johann Johannsson’s score is the emotional heartbeat of the film. Arrival is an cerebral and intelligent sci-fi thats more that home with Solaris, Contact and Interstellar than Star Wars. An intimate, tender film that reminds us not every sci-fi film is about what comes from the stars, it’s about humanity.

★★★★


Sci-Fi, Mystery, Drama | USA, 2016 | 12 | Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital Download | eOne UK | Dir.Denis Villeneuve | Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Tzi Ma, Michael Stuhlberg

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