I like to believe that in the last few years, we as a culture have seen groundbreaking leaps forward in the genre of science fiction. Avatar in 2009, Inception in 2010, Gravity in 2013, Interstellar in 2014, The Martian in 2015 and this year, the tradition continues as Arrival arrives in theaters as the new generation of a powerful science fiction feature that is meant to shake viewers to the soul!
Based on Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, Arrival stars Amy Adams as renowned linguistics expert Louise Banks who is thrust to the forefront of a military reconnaissance operation activated in effect of an unexpected and unprecedented moment: 12 unknown vessels have touched down in various parts of the world and the governments of the major powers are dumbfounded as to their purpose or their origin.
Banks, alongside physicist Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner, work to serve as intermediaries and translators to the visitors, who Ian has dubbed “heptapods”, in order to discover their intentions and why they arrived on Earth before someone, human or extraterrestrial, misinterprets the others’ actions as hostile and start something potentially cataclysmic.
If Interstellar was meant to be Christopher Nolan’s love letter to Stanley Kubrick and the iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey, than Arrival is undoubtedly Denis Villeneuve’s love letter to the same film, but I felt that while Interstellar went a little overboard in it’s passion to its influence, Arrival implements to play on your suspense and emotions quietly and with a greater degree of finesse but the impact of seeing this extraordinary work play out before your eyes, hits you like a cannon and doesn’t apologize for it. I was awestruck!
Screenwriter Eric Heisserer, beautifully adapted Chiang’s story into an intense and thought-provoking read about the gifts and perils of diplomacy, the need for international cooperation during times of crisis, what fear can do to humanity and above all, the power of words because what someone says and how someone says it could mean the difference between a friend and an enemy and I think that a message such as choosing the right words in the face of crisis is a message that everyone needs to remember right now, especially when the world is on pins and needles because of the events of this week.
In Amy Adams’ second cinematic stint of interacting with aliens this year, she propels the plot of Arrival as the most pivotal character in the story; the character who does her utmost to keep the military levelheaded while working to find common ground with the visitors who don’t know how to communicate with their new hosts; watching her grapple with her fear, her anxiety, her strength and patience, it is a profound performance in my eyes.
Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker supporting her are undoubtedly solid in their roles as Donnelly and Colonel Weber, who have their own reasons to know why these 12 landings happened and what the human race needs to do about it. The supporting cast of Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma andMark O’Brien, all contribute to the plot advancing to its ultimate conclusion.
I will say that Bradford Young, Joe Walker and Jóhann Jóhannsson, they deserve to take an epic bow for their contributions to shape this picture and giving it such a “larger than life” dimension. The cinematography, the editing and the score must rank among the best of the year because it is artistic, precise and practically heart-stopping to absorb! Patrice Vermette’s production design, the art direction of Isabelle Guay, Jean-Pierre Paquet and Robert Parle, Renée April’s costumes, the visual effects, the sound quality and effects, Arrival is without doubt, one of the elite technical experiences I have seen this year.
I thoroughly enjoyed Prisoners, I thought the world of Sicario but Denis Villeneuve took his directors game to new heights with Arrival, which I will wholeheartedly expect to see garner a lot of love this awards season; this is justifiably one of 2016’s most excellent films!