Arrival: Review

Discussion in 'Film (Visual Arts)' started by Lord Rando 77, Nov 12, 2016.

  1. Arrival

    Directed by Denis Villeneuve

    Written by Eric Heisserer



    With Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker

    Above all, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, in theatres, is an elegy to understanding. It speaks to a desire to building bridges over seemingly unconquerable gaps. Gaps like language. Origin. Species. The film, if given the academic interpretation it deserves, can be looked at as an eloquent discussion starter in a divided nation. A nation where those who speak the same language, in an atmosphere of near tribalism and certain nativism, seem incapable, even resistant, to learning to “speak the language” of the “other”. Never mind any effort to understand the “other”.

    Although it follows familiar “first contact with alien” film beats, (awkward fake news, first person cellphone footage, and a military mobilization,) Arrival manages to be original. In particular visually, with use of simple production design and elegant cinematic moments. For such a grand story, most of the cinematography is strangely intimate and focused on Amy Adams. Her character summons Francois Truffaut in his star turn in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where as an expert in communication, in this case a linguist, she is the most important member of the team. The mission being discover the aliens’ intentions. The film then becomes at once an advocacy for understanding and a dire warning against knee jerk militaristic reactions to cultural and linguistic misunderstandings.


    Amy Adams has become confident and comfortable with her range, and is more than capable of carrying this film. Not much is demanded of her co-stars, and not much is given. It’s a personal story. So that’s ok.

    Structurally, Arrival at times flirts with a near Terrance Malick style of floating cameras and voice over musings, but soon settles into procedural portions dedicated to hitting to the aforementioned “alien first contact“ film beats. The news. How the military is handling it. People praying. Call the President.

    Arrival is certainly unique in that it owes more to The Day the Earth Stood Still than to Independence Day. It chooses an intellectual theme over spectacle. In my interpretation the theme is that of overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers heretofore unseen, with the resulting reflection making us more human. A brave choice in today’s Hollywood marketplace.

    Without revelations, I can say that the film closes with introspection. It reveals the dangers of the unknown and the unknowable, and if it’s possible to even know the difference. And although some “discussion” is reached through the cracking of the visual language of the aliens, it is never clear if any true understanding (or misunderstanding) was ever achieved or was ever even possible. Just as in our own world, the events in Arrival offer plenty of questions, and no easy answers.

    Rated--- See it if you like Contact, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Day the Earth Stood Still

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