Movie Review | Arrival (2016)

Director Denis Villeneuve brings to life an extraordinary and thought-provoking story in the 2016 film Arrival. With it's gloomy, rainy, and ever-so-reflective atmosphere down pat, we settle in for what proves to be a powerful science fiction work that will have us forgetting the fiction part.

Based on the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang, the film delves into the complexities of communication, time, and the human need for connection. With a stellar cast led by Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, Arrival takes viewers on a thrilling and intellectual journey that challenges the boundaries of our understanding of what it would be like to be visited by beings from another world.

Adams delivers a breathtaking performance as “Dr. Louise Banks,” a skilled linguist who is enlisted by the government to help communicate with the extraterrestrial newcomers. Adams portrays Banks with elegance and subtlety, but with grief, capturing the character's intelligence, strength, and vulnerability. Her performance is both emotionally resonant and intellectually engaging. It is one of her best in recent years.

Renner brings his own charm and wit to the role of “Ian Donnelly,” a physicist assigned to work alongside Banks. Renner's chemistry with Adams is palpable, and their on-screen relationship adds depth and humanity to the film. 

Whitaker also shines as “Colonel Weber,” the military commander tasked with overseeing the operation. Whitaker's portrayal is commanding yet nuanced enough as a government employee to add dimension to the screenplay, showcasing his versatile acting abilities.

The screenplay, penned by Eric Heisserer, expertly adapts Chiang's complex and introspective story. Heisserer skillfully explores themes of love, loss, and the nature of time, while maintaining a gripping narrative. The dialogue is intelligent and thought-provoking, drawing viewers into the psychological and emotional journey of the characters. It’s pretty hard to not be engaged, even if the aliens don’t completely impress you (I, for one, was sold on both)! 

The script truly captures the essence of Chiang's original work, while adding its own unique flair. Villeneuve's direction respects the source material, but has enough creative vibe to move into its own territory, as the romance takes center-stage over the sci-fi aspect. With his precise and deliberate camerawork, he creates a sense of unease and tension that permeates the entire film. The visual effects are stunning, seamlessly blending the real and the surreal. 

The design of the alien spacecraft and the extraterrestrial beings themselves is haunting, adding to the overall sense of wonder and mystery—second only to the way in which these beings communicate.

Arrival is not your typical science fiction film. It transcends the genre, using the alien encounter as a means to explore deeper philosophical questions about the human condition and whether or not we are ready meet our cosmic cousins we may have out there. It challenges viewers to reflect on their own existence, their perceptions of time, and the power of language.

This is a film that stimulates both the mind and the heart, leaving a lasting impact on its audience. Arrival is a true cinematic gem. It is a film that demands to be seen, dissected, and debated. It is a story that lingers in the mind long after the credits roll.