As movie studios desperately try to mix together loud noises and bright colors tied around a recognizable brand to cash in, director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario and Prisoners) continues to produce intelligent and beautiful films. His newest addition to an impressive resume, Arrival, is a pensive and captivating science-fiction scenario about how humanity would react to the revelation of an alien species.
Arrival’s premise is simple: Twelve alien ships suspend themselves in random locations all over the world while the governments and militaries of the world try to discover the purpose behind this sudden visitation. Linguistics expert Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked with coming up with a way to communicate with these alien beings.
This synopsis may seem simplistic, but trust me when I say that the less you know about the film before seeing it the better. Arrival is a stellar movie experience, a truly breathtaking achievement in cinematography coupled with a cerebral script. The movie takes the time to build suspense without seeming too deliberate.
As much as the cinematography adds a sense of panache, the performance by Amy Adams anchors the entire movie. Adams does some of her best work as a strong and capable woman at the center of a world that is rapidly spiraling out of control. Viewers can completely buy Dr. Banks’ passion for the study of language — the empathetic connection she develops with the aliens — is the key to discovering their purpose.
Overall, Arrival is a marvelous achievement in cinematic storytelling and a strong entry into the genre. In many ways, Arrival feels like a great episode of Star Trek, one in which people use their intelligence to solve a problem and which examines the faults and capabilities of humanity. Along with films like Interstellar, Ex Machina, Inception and The Martian, Arrival is part of recent renaissance in science fiction films. Hopefully the trend continues with the sequel to Blade Runner, which is helmed by Villeneuve.