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Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguist who teaches at a College. One
day, twelve giant spacecrafts appear in random locations across the
world overnight. Louise's skills make her a requirement for the U.S
forces, who recruit her - and mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy
Renner) - to attempt to decode and translate the language that the
creatures inside the spacecrafts are using in order to prevent a global
war. Alien invasion films have, frankly, been done to death. Arrival's
script - penned by Eric Heisserer and adapted from Ted Chiang's short
story "Story of Your Life" - is ingenious in that it finds an entirely
new angle to focus the whole thing on. Rather than start a war and
depict the bloodshed and trauma of an alien invasion, Arrival focuses
on the struggle to communicate with the creatures (dubbed "Heptapods"),
and what the aftermath of this could lead to should it not go to plan.
The whole thing is pieced together like a piece of art - the
performances, dialogue, cinematography, soundtrack, screenplay, editing
and direction all form one elegantly structured whole. It's a simply
astonishing feat of film making.
Arrival finds strength in just about everything it is comprised of. It does this to such an extent, in fact, that it's almost impossible to break it down into individual pieces. Amy Adams is superb here, giving a subdued but deeply moving performance. A lot of the film rests on her shoulders for its twists and turns to stick the landing, but she carries it without breaking a sweat. Never given any big Oscar-esque moments, Adams tells Louise's story in her softest moments and through her body language. It's an astoundingly delicate performance. Renner is also solid, and accompanies Adams nicely, even if he can't help but feel woefully overshadowed. Louise as a character is the film's most exciting element - a woman that uses her knowledge and skills to change the world in ways it has never been changed before, all of which comes down to language. When Arrival ends, you will spend hours thinking about yourself and the language you speak and use every day. The potential behind this story was astronomical, and it delivers in spades.
Much like in his previous film Sicario, Villeneuve has created a masterful aesthetic in every way. The film's soundtrack, courtesy of the terrific Jóhann Jóhannsson, is a sublime array of thumping horn arrangements and softer pieces. The cinematography (by Bradford Young) is breathtaking, bringing in references and odes to other sci-fi classics (notably 2001: A Space Oddysey) but successfully acting as a perfect match to the tone of each sequence. The flashback sequences focused on Louise's young daughter look and feel like forgotten memories, while the moments inside the spacecrafts feel entirely alien. The production design is stunning, the large pitch black objects hovering over the cities feel instantly dark and foreboding, and the brief sights of the creatures we're given reveal something wholly original. In terms of technicalities and aesthetic, Arrival is a thing of beauty - a unique, visually resplendent film that you never want to take your eyes off of.
But where Arrival hits perfection, though? The emotion. The power behind the story, and the direction the story takes in its tremendous final act. This is what makes Arrival such a phenomenal film. It sets up a story (an already thought-provoking and well paced one, at that), and then smoothly transforms into something much bigger than you could ever have expected it to be. Another stroke of ingeniousness is that the film doesn't do this in one movement. Rather than drop one bombshell and change its direction, Arrival slowly sets up a series of events, then puts them in motion one by one, binding everything neatly around its central character. Y'know that feeling you get when an absolutely killer plot twist lands? Arrival will give you that feeling for the entirety of its final act. It is, of course, entirely possible to work out where it is headed. I did, as a matter of fact, and it just made the whole thing feel that little bit more special. You either work it out and watch as it comes to life before your eyes, or you cluelessly dedicate your time to its finale and feel mesmerised at each and every turn. Whichever you experience, it is wonderful.
Arrival is a film that feels thrilling in its own unique little way. When it ends, and you discuss it for hours (which is inevitable), you'll find yourself not focusing on the aliens. You'll be focusing on the emotional power of it all, on the human side of the story. I've deliberately left a lot out of this review, just to avoid spoiling the direction the film takes in its final act. The power behind the constant twists and turns is game changing; it proves that science fiction can be, despite what the name might imply, the most human genre to make a film about. Arrival has some stunning imagery and effects to play around with, but instead it focuses on language and conversation. It focuses on humanity and time and memory, and all that is worth fighting for on this planet. It is a breathtaking achievement, and one I already cannot wait to experience countless times again. In a year riddled with emotionless superhero films and crude comedies, Arrival is a godsend. Villeneuve has been on the verge of a masterpiece for the last few years, and he has finally landed it. Arrival is a film for the ages. Seek it out at all costs, and let it transport you across time and space only to bring you back down to Earth, evoking a feeling you may never have experienced before. This, people, this right here is why I adore cinema.
Last night I saw Arrival at TIFF and my mind was blown. This is by far
Villeneuve's biggest film he has tackled yet with so many strong
universal themes but yet also feels very emotional and intimate from
the perspective of Amy Adams's character.
Unlike Villeneuve's previous works like Prisoners and Sicario, Arrival isn't a dark or twisted look at humanity. Instead, Villeneuve chooses to go for a lighter yet still serious tone with the mystery surrounding the arrival of the aliens. That is what makes Arrival so incredible. Villeneuve injects elements from Stanley Kubrick's 2001 to make the story not only visual stunning but also makes it very captivating. Arrival does not rely on conflict between the humans and aliens to keep you invested and entertained because Arrival is against that trope. Each time our characters interact with the aliens, who remain covered in mist for most of the screen time, we as the audience gain something new in the form of knowledge and discovery rather then an action set piece. And when we return back to the outside world, we see through the media how each discovery affects it in different ways.
The characters are one of the reasons why this film works. They are not treated as cliché plot devices but are just real people who just want answers to this situation. Amy Adams truly is the star of this film as she carries this film with a sense of gravitas but also vulnerability. She shows a woman who is at first terrified from meeting the newly arrived aliens but gains strength when she learns more. Flashbacks to a tragic event also reveal the struggle she goes through especially as the fate of the world is on her shoulders. Jeremy Renner does a good job as a physicist with a dry sense of humor. Forest Whittaker is also great a the general who isn't a trigger-happy idiot but someone whose job is just to get answers in order to find the safest and most humane solution possible.
Arrival is a film that is more then just about language. It shows how divided we are as a species as each nation and culture interprets the alien's language in different meanings. And from this lack of clear understanding it creates fear and paranoia that could lead to global war. But Arrival shows that despite the mystery that surrounds the unknown, the future can be just as hopeful and bright as it might be scary and we should approach it with confidence.
This has proved Denise Villeneuve has range in genre as a director. I look forward to seeing him continue his work in the sci fi genre with Blade Runner 2.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie left everybody in the cinema clueless and bored to death.
So many things in the movie make ZERO sense, just a few examples:
- The colonel expects the linguist to decipher some alien language that sounds like gwowodkgjdkgrowlhwkas on the spot from a dicta phone.
- Most important event in humankind and all decisions are taken by some random soldiers in the camp. President of the US or any politicians are never shown and take no role whatsoever in the story.
- Some "rogue" soldier (god knows how) gets his hands on explosives, avoids all controls, and expects to destroy with a few C4 charges a huge spaceship which defies the laws of physics.
- The way they "decipher" the alien random scrabbling are just completely arbitrary and laughable (aka there is no explanation on how anything is deciphered) but magically after a few months they have a full vocabulary with which they can have a conversation. In real history many real human languages based on actual letters (not random stains in the air) were a completely unintelligible until the Rosetta Stone was found with a key to understand them.
- The alien presence on earth is just nonsensical. They arrive, say that they have bought some "gift" to humanity because in 3000 years they will need help in return (for what?) and then they disappear in thin air without having accomplished anything.
- The attack by the Chinese general (again, no government exists, it seems that soldier can just do what the heck the want) is stopped by some phone call whose contents nobody bothers to explain.
- most of the movie is just going back and forth from the ship, zzzzzzzzzz
- The physicist is practically useless. He just sits around without giving any scientific contribution. His only role is to represent the love interest of the linguist. He could have been a janitor for all I know.
People saying that this is the best movie ever have probably never seen a movie in their life or have suffered a concussion. Proof of this is that, while we're still talking about 2001 a space odyssey after 40 years, in 3 months nobody will remember this onsensical, boring, badly written piece of garbage.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The aliens have arrived. And they are Holy Calamari People, Batman!
giant squid. The giant squid communicate in writing by shooting
magical retractable ink out of their tentacles onto a transparent wall.
It's up to linguist Amy Adams to decipher their communication before
the other crazy countries in the world try to blow up everything.
The Calamari People, who float in a room of steam, write in circles which is apparently how they experience time. Without a beginning or end. They can see their lives in their entirety. And the Calamari People are here to give humanity a gift, we find out: Once you unlock their language and become fluent, you will experience time in the circular way they do. It's a lot like becoming fluent in French and suddenly realizing why the French love Jerry Lewis so much.
From the lack of character and character development to the way the story unfolds, the movie is like watching a real-time long shot of a grave digger digging a grave on the grayest of all days. It's morose and filled with dread. Monotone and monotonous. Shovel after shovel after shovel, and he never seems like he is getting anywhere.
The entire pic is filled with "music" that is just a bunch of low hums that underscore the dread and monotone. It doesn't give us a clue to how we should be feeling. And that's why I go to the movies, to feel. How about awe at seeing the spaceships? The joy and celebration of the first breakthrough of communication? Nope, we get tedium and low bassy hums.
Jeremy Renner plays a physicist who doesn't do any physics, and he nicknames the two Calamari People we see Abbott & Costello. Although you can't tell them apart, Abbott becomes my favorite character in the movie because he gets to die midway through and doesn't have to suffer through the rest of the film. Lucky Abbott.
Throw in voiceovers and flashbacks that we find out are really flashforwards because time is actually circular to Amy Adams, and you have a film that yearns to be so much more than the real-time gravedigging than it is. It's the type of intellectual pretentiousness I thought only the Nolans could put on the screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This should have been brilliant!
I love Amy Adams and think she is a great actress, and the first half of this films is suitably spooky, fully of mystery - but as soon as she gets in to the alien space ship and starts writing her name LOUISE, I just shook my head. Why is it so hard for Hollywood to write a decent script???
We spent YEARS deciding what to put on the side of the Voyager spaceship in case any sentient life forms discovered it, and used pictographs and hieroglyphics, but in this film the world's best linguist (allegedly) who knows Sanskrit (so therefore must know alien languages) just stands there and writes LOUISE in bad handwriting on a small white board and shouts her name whist enthusiastically thumping her chest!
That is how the English behave abroad, not how you make first contact with an alien race.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind did this so well with sound and colour, but here we just have a flip chart and a marker.
such a flippant regard for science makes all the rest of the film silly. People were laughing in the cinema when Ian started saying his name, and walking up and down 'IAN WALKS'. And then all of a sudden Lousie can recognise the word for time travel, which is a very complex concept, and all in the space of a few days.
Clearly the director and writer had a really great idea, and set up the world very well, but as soon at they go to the complicated bit - how do you actually communicate with an Alien from another planet who has no cultural references, then they bottled it and threw in a Voice Over from Ian, who we never quite worked out what he was there for. It's an old film making trick - if you are stuck thrown in a voice over that explains stuff.
They didn't even bother to try colours, or sounds, or lights, or music - just a white board and a marker and Louise has been writing in English, whilst round the world everyone will be writing in their own language and confusing the poor aliens.
And if you have got Forest Whittaker the Oscar winner in your film, for god's sake give him something to do! He has no purpose in this film, all his lines could be cut. Just have soldiers grab Alison and fly her to the space ship - give her the briefing in the chopper...
The director and writer should be forced to watch Close encounters of the third kind until they appreciate how pathetic their film becomes.
Such a shame. 8 out of ten for the first 30 minutes and 2 out of ten for the slow fart of the rest of the film.
Are we alone? This question has haunted mankind since they first gazed
at the stars. "Arrival" answers this question with an abrupt no. Other
films have tackled the question of humanity being alone in the cosmos,
from classics like "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) "The War of
the Worlds" (1953) "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977)
"Arrival" deals with the idea of alien landings in a much different way
than traditional Sci-Fi films. While the picture focuses on creatures
from another planet, it still has the uncanny ability to question our
Although "Arrival" is set up like many other Sci-Fi films with a doctor being needed by the government to do some top secret work to save human kind, it is not a traditional Sci-Fi film. Being Denis Villeneuve's first leap into the Sci-Fi genre "Arrival" is a story of self-reflection which is helped along by an alien presence. For no particular reason 12 alien ships land all over the planet in seemingly random locations. The only true form of communication takes place from a single opening in the bottom of the alien vessel, where Linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked at trying to open up dialog with the visitors. Physicist Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) is tasked with finding out how the alien vessel is capable of travel through space and how it seemingly defies gravity. The real question however remains in not how the aliens got to earth, but why?
What sets this film apart from others in the genre is the way that it plays with the notion of time, love and the essence of being human. Which is showcased in director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer's effortless ability to jump from time and place. While trying to discover what the Aliens are, and their motivation, Dr. Louise Banks discovers what makes herself human and questions everything held sacred to her. "Arrival" is just as much a film about aliens landing on earth, as a film about self-discovery and the value placed on love and loss. Dr. Banks although participating in some of the most ground breaking work a linguist could ever be involved in, is haunted by the tragic loss of her daughter. This coupling of discovery and loss is reflected perfectly in the acting performance of Amy Adams who is often torn between several emotions throughout the film.
Just as in his previous movies "Sicario" (2015) and "Prisoners" (2013) Denis Villeneuve employed composer Jóhann Jóhannsson who created an eerie and often unsettling composition for "Arrival". The sound pairs perfectly with the strange other worldly images of the aliens and their craft, the composition adds another layer of complexity to the already foreign and creepy world that is the alien craft. Visually the film is fantastic with an expert play on light and dark imagery, and the very deliberate use of color to emphasize certain characters and events. This transfers into the shadowy and smoke filled environment inside the alien vessel as well as the ink like Rorschach style alien writing. The visual effects used in Arrival give a sense of other worldly presence making the ship look as if it were a great technical feat of some unknown civilization, yet at the same time look organic as if were merely plucked from the surface of some far off planet. The aliens themselves look as if acquired from a Guillermo del Toro set, they are octopus like with long tentacle arms and gunmetal gray coloration, which begs the question of how a creature like this could have the dexterity to craft a sophisticated vehicle.
The film comes together to create a package of visual, intellectual and audible bliss. The composition of Jóhann Jóhannsson is second to none and at times the sound plays a critical character in the film. The cast with inclusion of Michael Stuhlbarg and Forest Whitaker (2 actors not really know for Sci-Fi) was a welcome addition. The dynamic between Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner seemed organic and a hallmark of great acting. But the stand out performance was that of Amy Adams who played a truly troubled and conflicted character.
In "Sicario" Vileneuve finished the movie with unanswered questions and left a lot to the imagination. In "Arrival" the film ended with a perfectly packaged ending that felt too neat and tidy. The film went into some sophisticated ideas that dived into the essence of humanity, yet did not give the same license for abstract thought with the conclusion. Ultimately Arrival is not just an exploration of alien beings, it's an exploration at what makes us human, and the positive and negative aspects that are associated with that humanity.
To this reviewer, there are two kinds of sci fi.
The common type dates back to Buck Rogers and has more modern iterations in Star Trek and Star Wars. Action and mayhem.
The other type, the "smart" or intellectual type, is harder to classify. It has been around forever but appears and disappears randomly. Consider the DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951/2008) or CUBE (1997) or the more recent MARTIAN (2015).
Or simply give it up and consider ARRIVAL the best example of the "Smart" genre ever done.
And if Ms. Adams does not get an Oscar nod for picking this film up and carrying it to the finish line (oh those eyes!) this reviewer will eat his review.
A must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Please save your money. If I could, I would have requested my money
back. When the film ended I heard at least 4 couples saying WTF!!!!
Really boring movie. Not even close to any of the classics. I am
reading all of the reviews that are saying a classic, right up there
with close encounter etc.... NOT EVEN CLOSE. All you want to do is
smack Amy Adams in the first 1/3 of the movie. Not a good character for
her to play. Forrest Whittaker has the funniest accent(i think its
Boston) you have ever heard. Totally goofy and giggle out loud funny. I
love SYFY movies, they don't have to be CGI, wham, bam type movies but
this is a total waste, gives you nothing and leave you with nothing.
People will say , "Man this really gets you thinking", yeah it does, I
was thinking where the freaking nearest exist was 1/2way through the
movie. You are constantly waiting for the movie to get moving. NEVER
happens. Slow, grey, and totally un-moving. It tries to play on the
heart strings a bit but fails dismally. I wont reveal the end but 1. If
you go don't blame me 2. Try not to throw your popcorn at the move
screen at the end, believe me you will have most of it left over.
If there was zero stars I would have given it. Total waste of time and money.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How did they get this green-lighted? Why did anyone want to make this film? I kept waiting for something to happen, butt nothing did. There was a subplot of sorts, with a whispered narrative. Big chicken feet came out of the mist to squirt ink blots on a glass wall. Whaaaat?? That's the alien encounter? I resented waiting on line to see this idiotic piece of crap for free. On my worst movies ever list. I was hoping for some great CGI, but that was not evident, either. Lots of green screening and flipping back and forth in time. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renners performances are faultless. it's the plot that leaves you wondering what is that about? Ultimately, boring and anticlimactic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Note to self: be sure to check the default sort order for IMDb reviews.
I realize now that it was set to 'best' and combined with all the
glowing reviews and 8.5 stars I was going to enjoy my first night at
the movies since Christmas.
So very wrong.
I don't thank I'm revealing any spoilers, but just in case, i'll say it now.
The movie is about a linguist brought in to try and communicate with aliens that have appeared around the globe. And that's it. You would think that if she was successful there would be huge implications and if she was not successful there would also be huge implications. In the end, there were no implications - she wrote a book. And the book had no impact on the world either. The end.
This is why I'm such a happy Netflix customer. I can give the movie half an hour to get going and when I realize that it's going to be a stinker (aka Fury) I can stop it and move on to something else. In this case, I was trapped in a sold out theatre. When it was done everyone just quietly filed out. I'm pretty sure its because, like me they were trying to figure out what the point was and how they got tricked into watching it.
I'll give it a star though for the music score.
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