REVIEW: Arrival

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Review by Dustin Heller

Arrival is a new sci-fi drama film from acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve.  Villeneuve is best known for his crime dramas Prisoners and Sicario, but his lesser known stuff is excellent as well.  The film is based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang and stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner with support coming from Forest WhitakerMichael Stuhlbarg and Tzi MaArrival is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for brief strong language.

A number of mysterious alien pods have landed at different spots around the globe, and the U.S. government has enlisted the help of expert linguist, Dr. Louise Banks (Adams) to try to communicate with these extraterrestrials.  With the help of mathematician Ian Donnelly (Renner), Banks is successful in interacting with the aliens through written words and actions.  In time, she is able to understand some of their language as well which opens her eyes to a whole new world.  As the rest of the world is contemplating war on these alien pods, it is a race against time for Banks to convince them that the visitors come in peace.

Arrival is a very intense and enigmatic film that is done beautifully.  The payoff of the mystery surrounding the entire film isn’t all that compelling or shocking, but I’m not sure it had to be in order to be successful.  This is a story about relationships and communication that will be lost on some expecting a sci-fi alien movie.

Although the film is done really well, I did have some issues with it.  The jumping back and forth in time got to be too confusing at times and really took away from the big picture.  Also, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar at certain points of the film.  I was not of fan of Interstellar and I feel that Arrival had some of the same missteps.

Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite directors working today, but this wasn’t his best film.  As for the acting, Amy Adams is better than ever and has no problem carrying the weight of this film on her shoulders.  Perhaps another Oscar nomination is in her near future.  Although very good, Arrival isn’t a perfect film and its more art house than mainstream sci-fi, so I’d recommend keeping this mind in order to keep your expectations in check.

Grade:  B

Arrival opens in theaters on Friday, November 11