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The Arrival remains the little seen and little known sci-fi thriller released the same summer as Independence Day. Most people opted to watch the latter film for all its big action scenes, which left The Arrival a box office loser, a destination it most definitely did not deserve. Since then, it has gained some life on video and will probably gain more popularity since the film marks the debut of director David Twohy, who is proving to be a force to reckon with in Hollywood, especially after his success with Pitch Black.
Zane Ziminski (Charlie Sheen) is a brilliant radio astronomer who, along with his partner (Richard Schiff), receive a radio signal which Ziminski believes was emitted from an extraterrestrial source. But as soon as he hands the recording over to his boss Phil Gordian (Ron Silver), everything seems to go wrong. Zane is fired, his estranged girlfriend Charlotte (Teri Polo) is transferred, his partner dies of an apparent suicide, and the tape of the recording has seemingly vanished.
Ziminski's new job, as a cable repairman, gives him access to his neighborhood's attena dishes, which he lines up together into a phased array in hopes of receiving the signal again. To his luck, the signal returns, but it's coming from a small town called San Marsol in Mexico. Heading down there, he meets a scientist named Ilana Green (Lindsay Crouse), who is down there studying the rising temperatures of third-world countries. As Ziminski continues his investigation, he believes he may have uncovered a worldwide alien conspiracy.
What makes The Arrival as great a film as it is is because of the story, which is smart and interesting. Rather than giving us mindless action scenes, writer/director Twohy prefers to keep our attention with an intelligent story. Despite this being his first time behind the camera, he proves himself an adroit filmmaker, weaving the story together brilliantly, and unfolding little plot surprises along the way.
The Arrival is primarily a thriller, and Twohy is more than competent at creating action and suspense (witness Pitch Black), both elements of which are sharply executed in this film. The final hour of the film is full of edge-of-the-seat excitement. Composer Arthur Kempel's score also adds an extra bit of tension. The film moves at a lightning pace and there's never a loss of momentum or a lag in the running time, which runs smoothly throughout all 115 minutes.
The cast is also strong, with Charlie Sheen taking top acting honors. I'm a little suprised of all the statements claiming he was miscast for the role. If anything, he's the only person who could play the part, and he comes through superbly, never failing to convince for a moment. Teri Polo is decent as Sheen's girlfriend, and while her character isn't developed as well, she still makes an impression in her limited screentime. Ron Silver is utterly chilling as Ziminski's boss, who wisely underplays the role, rather than chewing the scenery.
It's truly a breath of fresh air to watch a sci-fi thriller that relies on logic and plausibility to carry the story. For viewers who enjoy a fine story and believable science with their sci-fi, The Arrival is a true must see.
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