Arrival, Certainly A Surprise Landing

I had the pleasure of seeing Arrival on Monday at a 2:05pm showing. Definitely not a packed opening night showing and well after the release. My partner and I needed to kill some time before my bus was leaving and decided to see this movie based on it being the only interesting option in our area. Boy, was I glad we decided on this last minute.

Arrival looked interesting enough, large alien ships descend all over the world and we as humans learn to communicate with them. The trailer looked promising and smart. And for once a Hollywood trailer did justice to this movie and did not give away any spoilers or too many plot points. Just fair warning there ARE spoilers in this review.

First, lets talk about the overall look, feel, and vibe of the film. I really enjoyed the spacing and tone throughout the film. It was slow and delivered, but not boring. The music was spot on as well. Many scenes left you feeling tense and had a thriller type vibe. The thing is, this isn’t a scary alien movie, it’s much more complex than that. Although there is one jump scare, in which the lead character (played by Amy Adams) is dreaming, but my partner and I found it more funny than scary.

As for the plot, this movie is really about communication, understanding and time. Communication and understanding is reflected through language, text, emotion, etc. Also, understanding further through patience, reflection and empathy. The film tackles the concept of time being relative to how you communicate and understand your world and those around you. Luckily, there is very little CGI to be found. What CGI they do use, is sparingly and subtle. The alien ship and the aliens are formidable, but at the same time gentle giants. It’s simply a beautiful film. The cinematography was spot on as well. The scene cuts seemed appropriate, creating enough tension when needed, and providing long moving shots that delivered convincing emotions from the characters.

Speaking of characters, Amy Adams is amazing in this role. She’s smart, quick and always is perseveres in the chaos of this task she has to complete. She is the top most linguist in the country accompanied by the top physicist. The physicists (played by Jeremy Renner) was treated like most women in movies, as basically the side interest and used to move the plot forward. It was kind of refreshing. Especially as a balance to the hyper masculine military presence throughout the film. Renner does a great job, but he doesn’t have much to do in this film. The film is centered on Adams and her ability to communicate with these aliens. Adams hits so many emotional arcs and really selling it in each scene.

I really enjoyed how the film used time. This movie moves back in forth through time and can pull at a lot of your heart strings, but also keep you guessing as to what is the true order of events. I finally figured it out almost as the movie was ending. I couldn’t even process the reveal at first. It was expertly done and I could totally see myself having fun and watching this again to look for all those key plot points.

I could easily have watched a lot more of this film. It was just under two hours and left me wanting more. There was a lot left out of the film to focus more of the story of how we figure out how to communicate with the aliens. I really appreciated that they focused mainly on this story, but it would have been interesting to see how the rest of the world was reacting in real time. To the films credit they did include realistic media coverage of what would happen globally if aliens did descend in this manner. How as people certain groups would act felt honest and true. That truth is kind of the point of the movie. Here we have a global change that forces world powers to not only communicate with, and understand the aliens, but also each other.

Only delta’s to note is that I could see people critiquing this film as pandering to Chinese audiences. But it creates a realistic and relevant tension and suspense for the film. It may be too accurate of a portrayal really, but it makes sense. Marketing in movies has shifted to Asian markets in general, as they are much large movie going population than North Americans. It is something we will see much more of, as blockbuster movies depend heavily on international sales.

All in all, this was a really great film. Definitely recommend this if you’re killing time or need something awesome to watch at the theatre.

Rad approved.

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