Movie Review: ARRIVAL
Star rating (out of five): *****
ARRIVAL is a sci-fi drama directed by the acclaimed Denis Villeneuve, known for his work on SICARIO and PRISONERS. In this cerebral tale, a renowned linguist (played by Amy Adams) is enlisted by the government to uncover the motives behind the sudden appearance of alien creatures before humanity turns hostile and begins global war. The question “WHY ARE THEY HERE?” indicates that this is a thriller/race against time type of movie. I can honestly say that this is not that kind of movie. It’s something else entirely.
ARRIVAL has a very broad plot that seems increasingly contrived in the first act, but pays off immensely in the third. Though the story is grand, this is a very intimate experience thanks to Amy Adams’ excellent performance. Adams grounded the film in reality through her very human character. Jeremy Renner, another scientist who provides assistance, is also very relatable.
The visuals are quite good and surprised me. For the most part, the special effects are well done and the cinematography sets an impressive tone for the film.
The big reveal near the end is fascinating. My mind was expanded and it took a while for this crazy twist to resonate with me. I understood it – I even caught it early on – but its beautiful yet haunting message kept me thinking. I started to rethink the entire film and what it all meant. I was deeply disturbed and moved by it. In fact, it was so riveting that I became completely immersed in the movie from that point forward. When I walked out of the theater, I was lost in my mind, only thinking about the movie for a couple minutes. I’m still thinking about it as I write this! Jeez. Talk about effective…
ARRIVAL does answer the question of “WHY ARE THEY HERE?”, but it does so in a very swift manner. This highlights that ARRIVAL isn’t really about the aliens anyway, but I was still interested the answer. Besides, it was the driving point behind the marketing for the movie, and briefly for the narrative. Once we find the answer, it isn’t very clear and deserves more insight. Speaking of insight, there were several themes that I wish were elaborated on.
The pacing of ARRIVAL, as I stated before, is deliberately slow. The first act is sometimes boring (it does have some great scenes, but not enough), the second act is when things get interesting, and the third is when everything gets super crazy. The movie does build tension well, but not consistently in the first act.
ARRIVAL achieves being a cinematic experience, not just a movie. Its mind-blowing story and incredible performances make this a must-see.
Review by SAM SILBER.