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%

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2 thoughts on “The Arrival (2016)

  1. I enjoyed this film almost as an extended, big-budget Star Trek or X-Files episode — very much sci-fi, but accessible without being pandering or dumbing itself down. It’s the kind of film one can only expect from Villeneuve these days, not Michael Bay or David Fincher or Ridley Scott, and especially not from Christopher Nolan. It was large in concept yet small in scale, and with particular respect to science-fiction, that is incredibly hard to do.

    Have you watched his Canadian works like Enemy (2013) or Incendies (2010)? I loved Sicario (2015), but am one of the rare detractors of Prisoners…

    • I agree! Going into what I thought was a primarily sci-fi flick, I was astonished to discover the depth of the characters and the story in itself. What Arrival delivered, in my eyes, is almost impossible and I am still in awe several weeks later 🙂

      I’ve seen Enemy (and I loved it)! Yet to watch Incendies, but it’s definitely on my list!
      Thank you for your comment 🙂

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