Some films leave you impressed, and then there are the films that leave you gob-smacked. “Arrival” is a shock to the system. A film that goes to great lengths to transcend its genre and does so with flying colors. “Arrival” is an excellent slow-burn mystery thriller about alien contact, carried by an amazing cast and an even better director. It’s riveting two-hour emotional ride is punctuated with a nuanced and beautiful approach to the demanding force of time.
Twelve large vessels have just landed on earth. The alien ships attempt to communicate with the major nations of the world, but there is very little progress being made. Brilliant linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is asked by the United States military to help translate the alien speech. With the help of theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) the crew begins to crack the code to the alien language. Becoming troubled by the actions of other world powers who are also attempting communication with vessels in their areas, Banks has to race against the clock to find the answer for why the visitors have landed on Earth.
Unsurprisingly, Amy Adams is magnificent in her role. She carries Louise with gravitas and dedication that develops her into a vulnerable, exciting and emotional character. Driven by her curiosity to discover the language of the septapods (the given English name for the aliens) she becomes an unwilling courier between them and the humans. The most exciting moments in her story comes from her conversations with the septapods. Her glee and fear is expressed all in one slight movement or vocal quiver. Its easily one of the best female performances of the year. Renner, Whitaker, and Michael Stuhlberg also perform well, but it’s nothing compared to the weight of Adam’s commanding performance.
“Arrival” is much more than just a terrific foil for Adams though. It’s a tremendous mystery that discusses themes not often seen in sci-fi. It finds despair in how time controls our thoughts, how hope can still be found in doomed relationships and the insidious nature of labeling our fellow man as “others.” To talk at great length about how “Arrival” handles such complex topics is to risk spoiling a single second of its fantastic and mind-bendingly complex narrative.
Villeneuve has once again done what he is best at. His visual direction and perfect handling of Eric Heisserer’s emotionally charged (and oft times hilarious) script has turned “Arrival” into a masterwork of filmmaking. A sci-fi film that speaks to the issues of this generation with nuanced and balanced tones. It’s a unique entry into Villeneuve’s film canon and one whose powerful message and amazingly twisted narrative makes it his best film yet. “Arrival” is one of the must-see films of 2016, and one that will surely impress you and leave you shocked.