Release date: 10th November 2016/Watch the trailer here
Director Denis Villeneuve already has two incredible films under his belt with Prisoners and Sicario, and with Arrival, Villeneuve has made it a trio. Venturing into sci-fi territory, Arrival is a new take on the age-old alien invasion story. When twelve mysterious spacecrafts touch down in different locations across the planet, specialists around the world work together to try and understand who the aliens are and what their purpose is. At the U.S. site, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) brings in expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to help break new ground.
What makes Arrival so refreshingly different from every other alien movie is that this is not just a film about aliens attacking humans and humans fighting back. On the contrary, more than being a film about aliens, Arrival is really a film about language. Since the extraterrestrials show no indication of wanting to harm the planet and its population, the planet instead attempts to communicate with them, and Arrival is patient in taking the time to show exactly how Louise and Ian come to understand the aliens and their unique form of language.
Inevitably however, misunderstandings begin to arise when the phrase ‘offer weapon’ is translated and the aliens’ intent appears to be more malevolent than first thought. With the whole world teetering on the verge of war, Louise and Ian are the only ones who remain determined for answers and a true understanding of the aliens (named ‘heptapods’ after their seven-legged bodies).
It seems almost unheard of in a film featuring aliens that the humans are the most interesting part, but such is the case with Arrival. It is as much a study of its characters and their behaviours as it is of the heptapods and their strange spacecrafts. It offers a view of a global crisis that feels real and creates a population that reacts in ways which are understandable and believable. You can’t help but feel that if something such as this was to ever happen to our world, this is exactly what would it would be like, and this believability shapes an atmosphere of fear and tension. The characters, too, are three-dimensional and multi-layered; Louise in particular acts as the anchor of the whole film, thanks to an emotive performance from Amy Adams.
Each of these elements come together beautifully to create a film that is breathtaking to experience and riveting to watch. It calmly explores ideas of extraterrestrial life and time travel and takes the time to handle the implications of these dizzying thoughts. Arrival is exactly how science-fiction should be: intelligent and thoughtful, as much of a human drama about love and loss as it is anything else. In a word, it’s stunning.