Friday, March 31, 2017

Film Review: Arrival (2016)

Arrival (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: FandangoNow
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...an ominous but majestic science-fiction that will make you think."

A linguistic lecturer, a theoretical physicist, and several other experts attempt to decode an alien language after twelve spacecraft land around the world...

Arrival is a complex film, but it's worth watching. It's also a bit difficult to review without spoilers—but I'm going to try. The plot follows linguistic expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams). After twelve spacecraft land in seemingly random locations around the world, authorities race to discover their intentions, which means they must be able to accurately interpret their language. So, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) enlists a group of specialists—which includes Banks and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner)—to decode the language. This team frequently interacts with the alien species, known as 'heptapods,' while the world around them lives on the brink of chaos and all-out war. So, what do they want exactly? Well, like I said, it's a bit complex. Still, the climax is surprising, especially during your first time watching it unravel. The ending was also good. I felt like it could have been more effective, but I digress.


Arrival will require your full attention—and that's not a bad thing. Actually, it won't really be asking for too much since this is a very interesting film. Off the bat, Arrival feels like a true sci-fi movie. It evokes a powerful feeling of discovery. Watching these interactions between human and alien is hypnotizing because it is so... majestically enigmatic—for want of a better term. I won't hype this up more than other critics. There is a twist—it's a big one—but it didn't leave my jaw on the floor like other films. It's something to talk about, though. Does it work? Yes. The twist is clever and compelling. Is it perfect? Hmm... It works, but I felt like certain aspects could have been more effective with more character development. Still, I suppose an argument can be made that it really isn't necessary.

I don't have any significant issues with this film. There are a few moments where characters do things that are just frustrating, but that seems to be a staple in all movies nowadays. How else are you going to move your plot forward? It's a nitpick, though, so it's not a severe or recurring problem. The film also stalled a bit towards the middle. It's a two-hour movie, but it didn't feel like it. It felt lopsided. A lot happens during the beginning and end, but the middle is unnecessarily slow.

The acting was good. Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, and Jeremy Renner deliver good performances. The cast feels intimate and sincere. The film was shot very well. I loved the camerawork, the cinematography, and the special effects. The music was also great. I'm listening to the soundtrack right now. However, the music often clashes with the language of the heptapods. The screenplay was written by Eric Heisserer, based on a story by Ted Chiang, and directed by Denis Villeneuve. The writing was good, especially considering the complex subject and storytelling. It had several opportunities to fumble, but it stayed on its feet. It could have been fine-tuned, but it works. Villeneuve is an excellent director, working very well with the camera and his cast. His direction is engaging and stylish.

Overall, Arrival is a great film. It's an ominous but majestic science-fiction that will make you think. Is it a film for everyone? No, and that's okay. If you're not into slow-burn, compelling sci-fi dramas, you should watch something else. If you don't want to think during a movie, which is entirely fine, you should watch whatever you like. Just because this is critically acclaimed that doesn't mean you have to like it. I think it's great, though. If you've shared my opinion on other movies I've reviewed, maybe you'll like it, too.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some language.

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