Arrival – A film review

‘Arrival’ is a 2016 science fiction film starring Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams and Forest Whitaker directed by Denis Villeneuve. The film is based on a short story by Ted Chaing.

‘Arrival’ is pitched as a thinking mans first contact film. Sci-fi’s usual fare is marauding aliens but this is more thoughtful and focuses on how contact can be made. It is because of this that I looked forward to watching this film with some excitement three of my most favourite films are ‘Contact’, ‘Abyss’ and ‘The Sphere’. Each of these explore the first contact with an alien species with some nuance.

The film focuses on Amy Adams’s linguistics expert Louise Banks with physicist Ian Donelly and soldier in charge  Colonel Weber. They try to find a way to communicate with the aliens, who have arrived in 12 monolith shaped ships at various places across the globe. They need to establish a dialogue to understand why they have come and what they want. The story focuses on the leads but allows you to see the wider context with other countries attempts to make a breakthrough and the effects on the general public.

The aliens in the film are well realised  eschewing the usual humanoid body shape for something more alien. They also communicate in a unique way which is obviously deciphered way too quickly for plot reasons but is an interesting angle to take. True aliens would have their own frames of references and these probably won’t coincide with our own.

For me the film was good with just the contact part and the emotional time bending b-plot involving Banks’ daughter was unnecessary and ruined what could have been a more cerebral film. I would have liked to have a little more screen time with the aliens and their motives. The problem is once you know the aliens aims it can seem like a let down but not to reveal it seems like a cop out. As directed you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

One thing I did like was Whitakers no nonsense but plenty of commonsense colonel. He wasn’t your average jumped up soldier intent on destroying anything he didn’t understand which has become a trope of many movies. Instead Colonel Weber was practical and thoughtful weighing his duty as protector with the need to get answers, more refreshing.

 It was well acted and directed and the special effects were good. I liked the aliens creation and the way in which they communicated. All in all, it was a good film and I enjoyed it, despite the few failings.

Into the Nebula Score: 7/10




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