Movie Review: Arrival

By Mark Farmer, Entertainment Writer 

“Arrival” enters theaters this week, directed by Denis Villeneuve (of “Prisoners” and “Sicario” fame) and starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner as they are brought in to help try and communicate with aliens for the first time in Earth’s history.

If this already interests you, please, I implore you, do not read any further- I try to keep my reviews light on spoilers, but believe me when I say that this movie benefits from audiences having no prior knowledge of what may take place. The trailers for this movie are excellent in keeping the details sparse, so I would also recommend those if you’re looking for some more detail. Otherwise, I don’t want to say anything more beyond this: Go see this movie! It’s honestly one of my favorites of this year’s offerings (so far).

For those uninterested in staying spoiler-free (or for those who have already seen the movie), allow me to elaborate- Denis Villeneuve has done a fantastic job with this story, crafting an excellent take on the otherwise-stereotypical “aliens come to Earth” genre. This is not your usual “Mars Attacks!” type of alien movie- Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner portray a linguist and theoretical physicist who are employed to help determine exactly how to communicate with one of twelve alien “spaceships” that have landed across Earth. The story itself is already enticing: In many alien movies, the concept of how to communicate with the species is simply ignored- They are depicted as just being a “more advanced race,” so they can already speak any/all of Earth’s many languages. Instead, “Arrival” focuses on just how do we find out what these aliens want, before they attack us (or we attack them).

This isn’t the first time aliens have been depicted like this- Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 film “Contact” (based on the Carl Sagan novel of the same name) very similarly depicted aliens in a much more down-to-Earth sense (no pun intended). How would Earth actually react? How would we react if we had to attempt to speak to them? What would Earth’s population think of our choices? And, most importantly, how would these aliens respond to our attempts to communicate with them? “Arrival” seeks to find interesting answers to these hypothetical questions.

But there’s more to it than the story’s concept. Villeneuve and his crew take inspiration from other classic Hollywood films, as well, such as Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind:” The aliens, both in the film and in the promotional material, are not immediately revealed, and their purpose is never clear until the end of the film. Audiences are always on the edge of their seat- Are these aliens here to help or to destroy? Viewers are never comfortable during the scenes in which the aliens are present, which, to be honest, is how anyone would feel, given the circumstances. Villeneuve strives for realism in his pacing during “Arrival,” and nails it throughout the entire film.

Beyond that, the film is nothing short of stellar- The music is haunting, the actors are well-cast, the cinematography is spot-on… It’s an absolutely wonderful experience. I felt joy, sorrow, fear, anger, surprise, and more while watching “Arrival,” and, truly, that’s how a movie should be. I cannot recommend it enough- Go see this movie!