Saturday, November 12, 2016

Arrival - Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

Title: Arrival
Year: 2016
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Eric Heisserer
Cinematography: Bradford Young
Score: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg
Bias: I think Villeneuve is one of the best directors of this era.

I feel like, that everything that happens comes down to the two of us. - Dr. Louise Banks

What would it be like if, during our lives, aliens from distant and unknowable worlds arrived all of the sudden on the Earth? Like the film's tag-line asks, why are they here? Director Denis Villeneuve, along with screenwriter Eric Heisserer try to show us what might happen. The movie tells us the story of the American team that tries to figure out what the aliens want with humanity with the help of linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) has to keep them as focused as they can at trying to communicate with the aliens while the government presses on them and tension escalates.

Denis Villeneuve is a master at tension. With Sicario, he showed that he could do moments of great tension building with lighting, music and a change in the way the film is cut and edited. While Sicario is a very dark film in terms of its content, Arrival succeeds at being very different without really sacrificing the sense of tension that Villeneuve can build. 

There are two different kinds of alien movies: 1) where the aliens are just there to kill a bunch of unsuspecting humans and then get killed by humans; and 2) where the aliens are just a way to tell a story about humans. This film definitely falls into the latter category and if you were expecting the first, you were probably incredibly disappointed.

I don't really want to give too many details because this film is something that should be experienced with as little knowledge of it as possible. Amy Adams gives an Academy Award worthy performance as one of the people who must figure out what is going on. Although the film has to explain a lot of the science, it also does a great job of showing us what is going through their heads through the character of Dr. Banks.

The movie is beautiful to look at, even when the color palette is subdued most of the time, there are moments of bright color that contrast with the darker tones that Villeneuve is very fond of. These are not purely stylistic choices, though, as he uses them wisely in order to help with the story telling. Most of what this film is about is explored subtly, even when there are more surface levels of themes that should also be given consideration.

Like with Sicario, the score of the film, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, is very much a part of the experience. Along with Villeneuve's camera work, Jóhannsson's score helps to build the tension. The soundtrack sounds like aliens would sound and how they communicate, almost. It does a great job at not overpowering what is happening but accentuating whenever it needs it.

It would be impossible not to parallel some of the themes in the movie with the real world. With Amy Adams being a surrogate to the crowds exasperation and fear at something that might have the power to divide the country or the world. It almost seems like Donald Trump's election and the riots caused by it were viral marketing for this film.

This film is layered and impressively human in its themes. You should go out and watch it, but be weary, this is not Independence Day.

I give this film 9 out of 10 flying spaceships.

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