THE NEXT CLOSE ENCOUNTERS HAS “ARRIVED”!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: **** out of 4
Something big has arrived in Arrival
Once in a while, there comes along a sci-fi film that doesn’t rely on flashy special effects or action sequences, but rather a slow but mysterious throwback to the classic science-fiction genre. Arrival is one of those movies, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario), produced by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum trilogy, Date Night, Real Steel), and starring Amy Adams (Enchanted, DC Extended Universe, American Hustle) and Jeremy Renner (Mission: Impossible 4 and 5, Marvel Cinematic Universe, American Hustle).
Obviously I’m a huge enthusiast for sci-fi action movies from Jurassic Park to Edge of Tomorrow, but I also appreciate sci-fi movies that are slower and more about mystery, if they keep my interest like Duncan Jones’ Moon and most recently, Midnight Special. The trailer looked very interesting when I first saw it, and since Villeneuve won me over with Prisoners and last year’s Sicario, I couldn’t see how I could miss it.
So I sat in the movie theater and saw the film, and wow, I was very impressed, Arrival could be one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen. The film pays homage to sci-fi classics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial while still managing to stay fresh and new.
The film succeeds in sci-fi, mystery, and even drama, thanks to intelligent storytelling and top-notch acting. Lots of build-up, exposition, and flashbacks, it takes its time to develop the story and characters and doesn’t require loud action sequences.
The movie follows a linguist named Louise Banks (Adams) who is called in by the military to investigate a mysterious extraterrestrial spacecraft that appeared on Earth. She accepts and an elite team is formed consisting of her, a theoretical physician named Ian Donnelly (Renner), and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker-Phenomenon, The Last King of Scotland, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) to go inside the spacecraft and study the aliens inhabiting it, and possibly find out why they are here.
The film also stars Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, Hugo, Doctor Strange) as Agent Halpern, Tzi Ma (Dante’s Peak, Martial Law, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as General Shang, and Mark O’Brien (Republic of Doyle, Hannibal, Halt and Catch Fire) as Captain Marks.
Overall, Arrival is a phenomenal sci-fi experience and an easy recommendation for fans of slower science-fiction movies. However, the slower storytelling and lack of visuals and action may throw mainstream movie-goers off, but what keeps the audience interested are the characters.
The writing and determination of the actors make you care about these characters and it feels like you’re really there with them interacting with the aliens. Nobody is written like a typical sci-fi movie character and the dialogue and emotions feel natural and they seem real, and I love movies that manage to do that.
I also have to give this movie a lot of credit for keeping me interested with very few appearances of the aliens. The same reason why I loved Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind or the original Day the Earth Stood Still, slow build-up but through effective storytelling, masterful direction, and a talented cast, I was able to stay invested until the end credits.
It’s not the most original sci-fi movie of all-time, the film does take elements from other sci-fi movies we’ve seen before. With that said, the script isn’t a complete rehash of classic movies, there are plenty of surprises and twists, and you actually care for the human characters and you’re not just stuck with them until the aliens appear.
Arrival is a very different film in Denis Villeneuve’s filmography, seeing how his previous films have been R-rated thrillers with heavy violence. Hopefully this will lead to more sci-fi films directed by him, because he could very much be the next Spielberg…after Shyamalan.
If you’re a fan of classic science-fiction, you’ll want to “Arrive” at your movie theater and experience a well-made alien movie throwback.