Movie Review: Arrival

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Movie Review: Arrival

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By Christoph Russi ’17

 

Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” is perhaps the most thoughtful and well-crafted science fiction film yet of this decade. It’s an absolute must-watch for fans of the genre. However, if you lose focus on the narrative for even a moment, the final impact of the profound message that is slowly uncovered over the course of the film may leave you dissatisfied and bored.

“Arrival” is about an alien race that suddenly and mysteriously lands in 12 different locations across the globe in massive floating egg-shaped ships. A team of scientists and a linguist are put together to explore one such ship in order to discover the purpose for the aliens’ visit. The story is told in broken chronology, flashing forward and backward in time like Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse 5” for the purpose of slowly revealing to the audience a much more complex and interesting narrative than is typically found in first-contact movies. Moviegoers expecting an explosion-packed shoot-‘em-up alien invasion experience should either change their expectations or save their money for something else.

The film is based on the short story, “Story of Your Life,” by Ted Chiang, which won the 2000 Nebula Award for Best Novella. And from a director known for making such painstakingly detailed and intricate films such as “Sicario” and “Prisoners”, it’s fair to say that you should go in expecting to see something that will make you think. That being said, in order to get the most out of “Arrival,” make sure that you are completely awake for the full two hours. The movie requires you to expand your imagination, as well as remember all of those finely crafted details and moments to really feel the emotional impact woven together in the third act.

With a beautiful and poetic experimental soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson, (known for “The Theory of Everything” and “Sicario”) “Arrival” sucked me in as soon as the first chord was struck. Amy Adams (“The Master”) pulls the emotional heaviness of her character while portraying a brilliant linguist in what felt like an Oscar-winning performance. Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) and Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”) were perfect for the supporting roles of the witty scientist and the stern military colonel.

The immersing cinematography, well-written and well-casted characters, and unique story of “Arrival” will likely make it the most spectacular cinema-related experience for many this year. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that it was for me.

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