An opportunity to say this doesn’t come around very often, so here goes – you’ll want to take a look at this. And why? Well, let me get right into that, and spoiler-free too of course.
Amy Adams stars as the Linguist Louise, who is drafted in when a number of alien vessels land across the planet. Strangely however there is no sign of an immediate threat, and instead she is required to help the U.S. in their search to discover why the aliens have landed, and what they are looking for. Riots and unease spread across the planet, but secretly there is an worldwide effort to learn about the new arrivals. Louise is teamed up by the Astrophysicist Ian (Jeremy), but what they discover will change everything they perceive about their lives.
After the onslaught of so many Action / Sci Fi blockbusters, this premise is a very refreshing one. Instead of placing the emphasis upon defeating some threat, we have a story build on language. I mean when you think about it, HOW do you try to cross the barrier in order to translate a question to an alien race when neither side known what the other can say? The movie approaches this difficult problem in a very methodical and planned manner – each visit taking a small and basic principle, and placing it to practise. It is the backbone to everything that happens, and honestly, fascinated me. I had never before seen language in this light, being faced in the same way one would see an equation and try to ascertain what it relates to.
Of course, the Science Fiction isn’t far away either, though it isn’t as prominent as you may be expecting it to be. The ships are eerily tantalising, the way in which they float just off of the ground. And especially how the appear on the inside. It was nothing like what I has visualised in my head, instead being almost brutally simplistic. But the moment where the crew enters for the first time still sent shivers up my spine. Just like the linguistics, the Science is rooted to the ground in a very solid way. The questions that are asked are valid and necessary – it is more a case of common sense than being intelligent.
Amy Adams takes the held of this film, and she works wonders with that role. Incredibly subtle and deeply emotional, she reacts to the situation in just the right way for you to totally buy into the situation. Where the TV stations and public are losing their minds and throwing theories about like so much confetti, she just gets on with the task at hand with a sense of awe. No one has ever dealt with a situation like this before, so even for her it is beyond her usual workhouse in the same way it is for the audience. She is our avatar, and the character is designed so damm well.
Jeremy Renner takes a very subdued side role – he is tasked alongside her to take on the mission, but his influence is more one of moral support and to include his Physics-minded point of view. Which can be beneficial of course. The Colonel they liaise with (played by Forest Whitaker) is very devoid of emotional input, but that fits with the role his character takes. He must be the voice that is at ease, and is only seeking results that can be useful. But altogether the primary cast is surprisingly small, much smaller than I was expecting.
And now on to the part where I have to talk more deeply about the storyline without venturing into the minefield of spoilers that lies within touching distance. The plot takes several little turns that keep you invented. The sense of progress being made along with complications to the overall goal kept me paying close attention to what was being said and portrayed. The final act however takes a paradigm shift of such magnitude that the whole story gets re-written. And it blew me the fuck away.
What makes this so astonishing is that it plays both a practical, and emotional role in where everything has reached. This is not just a ploy to have the audience shed some tears, the structure of what happened depends on it too. None of it feels sappy, or forced, or un-warranted. And it will leave you mulling over the details for a hell of a long time, it has me wanting to see it again to be honest, just so I can see in more detail how all the pieces connected together.
There are plenty of “clever” or “intelligent” films out there. Some that earn those titles, and some that wear it like a thin veneer over the bland interior within. It is easy to generate a sense of intelligence but to weave it into every aspect of the film making process takes a level of writing that I just can’t imagine. I mean, the number of re-writes this must have gone through must have been insane! Just to make sure evry little detail had its place and to allocate the empty spaces with relevance. The visual and audio design are both brilliantly incorporated into the overall feel of the story – alien and other-worldly, but also very close to the emotional resonance that is being emitted. Amy Adams delivers an incredible lead performance that most actresses would kill to achieve. Every step forward in the acts keeps developing and morphing your view upon where it will all lead to, but at the same time it all fits upon recollection.
“Arrival” is going to be one of the big winners from 2016, there is no questioning that whatsoever. But plenty of movies achieve that, yet for whatever reason fade into the ether as the years pass by and they are remembered with less wonder. I don’t think that will be the case for this – it is just too good for that to happen. This is our modern “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, a piece that will render the shape and design for future Sci Fi movies to come. It puts forward ideas that are just fascinating to think about, while not clutching at a gimmick for support. Like I said, I was blown the fuck away by it, and after a day of thought and reflection, I think it earns this rating for that.
Thanks for reading!