To open up this review, first there’s an admission from this particular writer. When Arrival was being lauded at cinemas last year, the ever-cynical scribe whose words you’re reading didn’t quite get the hype. After all, this is essentially just Amy Adams as someone who can speak a few different languages and so is chosen to make ‘first contact’ with an alien race. How exciting, exhilarating and engaging could that be, right? Well, how wrong was I?
Arrival is simply a phenomenal, emotional rollercoaster of a movie that rightly deserves its spot as one of the finest movies of the past decade (even nabbing the much-revered #1 spot in STARBURST’s top movies of 2016). Sure, there was and is a whole lot of hype around the movie, but that is so, so well deserved.
To elaborate on the foolishly simple synopsis this reviewer had mentally attached to Denis Villeneuve’s movie, Adams’ Louise is indeed sought out by Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber to assist the military and government in interpreting what these alien visitors actually want from us mere Earthlings. Joining Adams’ linguistics expert is Jeremy Renner’s Ian, and it’s this pair who are tasked with establishing a connection with the aliens in order to understand the very fundamentals of language and communication. While the government want immediate results, Louise is insistent on a slow and arduous process in order to fully understand the basics of words, structure and intent as twelve alien vessels ominously rest at various spots across the globe.
Even now, any sort of general synopsis or overview of Arrival’s plot can’t help but make the film sound slightly dull and dour. But make no mistake about it, this is one of those rare pictures that will grab you from the get-go, monopolizing your attention and having you hang on its every word from start to finish. The performances of all of the key players are never less than perfect here, but it’s clearly Amy Adams who stands out as the star of the show, and her troubled Louise has far more going on than we could ever dare to elaborate on here for fear of overly detailing some of the film’s more intricate moments.
While the performances of Messrs. Adams, Renner and Co. are a real treat to behold, equally as impressive is the visual style, look, and tone of the movie. Director Denis Villeneuve is quickly establishing a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s hottest rising stars, and Arrival is aesthetically as fine an example as you could ever need to see just why there’s so much hype around Villeneuve. The Canadian director made some waves with the likes of Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario, but with Arrival he really has taken his stock to a whole new A-list level, and it’s having him in the director’s chair that’s the main reason we’re excited for Blade Runner 2049.
It’s obviously extremely rare that you get a completely perfect film, but it’s no exaggeration to state that Arrival is as close to being the perfect movie as we’ve seen in many a year. To put it bluntly, believe the hype!
Special Features: Four featurettes
ARRIVAL / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: DENIS VILLENEUVE / SCREENPLAY: ERIC HEISSERER / STARRING: AMY ADAMS, JEREMY RENNER, FOREST WHITAKER, MICHAEL STUHLBARG, MARK O’BRIEN / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 20TH