12 November, 2016

"Arrival" Review (****½)

Amy Adams stars in "Arrival."

Denis Villeneuve, one of our most consistent filmmakers, has crafted one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade with "Arrival." A slow-burn, intellectual approach keeps the story front and center—and what a story it is.

Amy Adams plays Louise Banks, a linguist whose skillset becomes invaluable when mysterious spacecrafts land around the world—twelve different ones to be exact. Hovering quietly above random locations across the globe, humanity has to make the next move. Do we attack? What do they want? Why are there twelve? These questions are only the beginning of the mystery that falls into the hands of Louise and her physicist partner Ian (Jeremy Renner).

The two of them board one of the giant floating pods in search of answers and are face to face with the aliens themselves. Giant, 7-tentical beings engulfed in white mist, the aliens spray a black substance against the wall that separates them as if writing in their language. Buried in hazmat suits, Louise and Ian slowly begin to attempt interpretation. Peace is the goal but first must come understanding.

Unlike many modern sci-fi films, the focus of "Arrival" is not on special effects or flashy sequences but on heart. Louise, who has now started having increasingly intense flashbacks of her late young daughter, is slowly but surely cracking this 'language.' As her and Ian get closer to finding answers, the world has moved from fear to panic. As nations around the globe become more and more impatient and began to prep their military forces, attack becomes option A.

Villeneuve is a master of his craft. He gives every scene time to breath and builds the quiet tension to such a degree that when the twist of the movie is finally revealed, I was not only emotionally invested but also thoroughly impressed at the film’s ability to blow my mind. Just like in “Prisoners” and “Sicario,” Villeneuve and director of photography Bradford Young frame each shot with precision and care. The cinematography matched with a gorgeous score from frequent collaborator Johann Johannsson elevate the material.

Adams yet again gives an award-worthy performance. She brings so much life into an otherwise chilly film and her character’s journey is the real backbone of the movie. "Arrival" is one of the year’s best and demands to be seen (at least once). It’s an engrossing, smart and emotionally potent sci-fi film with streamlined story telling, unforgettable cinematography and flawless direction from one of our very best filmmakers.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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