The mystery of the unknown is something that doesn’t get explored enough within science fiction. Too often we see science fiction films, particularly involving aliens, that are only interested with how we, as a species, would fight back against them.
Every now and then however, we get a film like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival that comes along and offers something totally different. The film uses its tagline “Why are they here?” quite literally to deliver one of the most fascinating films you will see all year.
Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is one of the world’s leading linguists, who gets recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications. Along with mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise attempts to get answers as to why twelve alien spacecrafts have landed at different locations around the world.
I had only seen three of Denis Villeneuve’s previous films before yet I have been impressed with the diversity of his films, a trend he continues with Arrival. What I really admire about Villeneuve as a filmmaker is the choice he makes to not spoon feed the audience with every single piece of information. He instead makes films to challenge the audience, leaving them to either complete the puzzle themselves or question the morality of his characters.
With Arrival, Villeneuve has crafted a truly thought provoking science fiction film, telling the story in a slow yet masterful manner, leading to a beautiful pay off. The theme of communication resonates massively with the world today, the moment communication between twelve countries via satellite link breaks down summing it up quite suitably.
Villeneuve’s storytelling is aided by some superb cinematography from Bradford Young and a haunting score from Jóhann Jóhannsson. Young’s cinematography captures the sense of wonder perfectly while Jóhannsson’s score heightens the sense of mystery surrounding the alien visitors and their intentions.
Coming to the performances, Arrival features a real emotional heartbeat thanks to a fantastic performance from the always dependable Amy Adams, who conveys such a wide range of emotions as Louise, growing in confidence with each session she gets with the visitors. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker offer some fine support for Adams but there is no doubting this film belongs to her.
Arrival is one of the best films of the year and a really great example of science fiction filmmaking from Denis Villeneuve, who is perfectly suited to bring us the sequel to Blade Runner next year. I would happily put this film in the same league as something like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, one of the all time greats of sci-fi.