The Arrival (2016)

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Take it from me, watching the trailer for The Arrival over and over in the cinemas these last few months has driven me further and further away from this freaky sci-fi drama, but Denis Villeneuve’s surprisingly audacious new film skirts the very edge of absurdity and humanity. I’m always agnostic about sci-fi ‘disappointments’, such as Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar or Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, but The Arrival is a mature and thoughtful piece that uses first-contact premise as not merely a set up for a doomsday epic, but as a platform for a powerful and nuanced exploration of love, relationships and the human condition.

As twelve mysterious spacecrafts land in varying locations across the globe, we see college students’ phones explode with the breaking news. Humanity’s reaction is the very core of this film, as priorities methodically unfold before the ships – or shells – are finally revealed. Here the tone is set for a desperate hunt for survival. Amy Adams is Dr Louise Banks, a professor of comparative linguistics, and naturally the first point of contact when a bunch of military guys need help translating the language of these aliens. But as the film unfolds, the question of ‘Why are you here?’ greatly pends, as humanity fights against itself to preserve what remains of its peaceful existence.

Denis Villeneuve’s approach to The Arrival builds on a rich body of work, with films such as Prisoners and Sicario absorbing a remarkable world of symmetrical compositions and patient camera moves. But in addition to superb screen composition, The Arrival’s extraordinary success draws from its ability to resonate emotionally on an almost incomprehensible level. As the drama unfolds, you’ll be biting your fingernails in anticipation. This combination of human interaction, bravura style and grand science-fiction depth looks at the vulnerability and sacrifice of humanity to transcend the genre of sci-fi altogether. I guarantee that it will leave you speechless.

An intelligent and wildly gripping film, The Arrival dazzles from beginning to end, causing us to re-evaluate the world around us in the very fabric of humanity. It is simply art, at a time when so many seem intent on walling on themselves or their country – its exactly what we need.

★★★★☆

Imdb – 8.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes – 93%

The Founder (2016)

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If you worked at McDonald’s at the ripe old age of fourteen years old, keen for cash that wasn’t gifted at the whims of your parents’ generosity, then you’ll be familiar with the phrase; “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” Decades after McDonald’s ‘founder’ Ray Kroc coined this saying, the motto remains ingrained in employees across over 35,000 outlets all over the world. This phrase perfectly encapsulates the mid-western work ethic of Ray Kroc, a go-getter salesman with big ambitions and an undying persistence for success.

When we meet Ray Kroc in the 1950’s, he’s a middle-aged, reasonably well-fixed salesman on a desperate hunt for a gimmick that will earn him his fortune. The McDonald brothers, Mac and Dick, appear to have exactly what he is looking for – a successful hamburger joint run by hard working visionaries. Overwhelmed with anticipation for what this small San Bernardino restaurant could become, Kroc talks his way into franchising and expanding into every town in America. The story of a vision that grew under the noses of its creators.

With the undeniably ubiquitous presence of McDonald’s in most people’s lives – from kids birthday parties to the 3am drive through – the story behing the Golden Arches is one we can all easily invest in. But what really drives The Founder is Keaton’s magnetic and dynamic performance as the underlying unequivocal villain, coated with layers of charm, insecurity and grit. Here Hancock tries to enforce the understanding of why Kroc did what he did, almost humanising the ruthless tale of business intrigue.

I am fascinated the follow the response to The Founder, particularly in America. Is it possible that despite everything, Ray will be viewed as a hero, an underdog with persistence that enabled him to push through every setback in his path to create an empire? But his triumph was always inevitable against the McDonalds brothers. To the movie’s credit, Kroc has an opinion about this too.

All in all, The Founder presents a version of the American Dream in which the need to succeed obliterates any other considerations; in a story of strong minded determination, a small downtrodden businessman gains his revenge on the world.

★★★★☆