Arrival opens with what appears to be a memory, or rather, several memories. Louise (Amy Adams) is a new mother, reveling in taking care of her baby daughter. She’s enjoying being a new mom, but motherhood is tragically short-lived. It’s soon made apparent that her daughter has died. It’s never explicitly stated, but it’s looks like she died from some form of cancer.
Understandably, Louise is morose, vacant even. Actually, it’s worse than that; she appears to be a high functioning depressive. She gets up, gets ready and heads to work, but at no point does there seem to be any life behind the look in her eyes. Louise is going through the motions, driving to the university and starting her lecture on Romance languages, when she finally breaks out of her routine and realizes that something’s truly amiss. Within a matter of moments the US Army comes knocking on her office door, requesting her assistance.
Aliens have landed and they want to talk but, logistically speaking, no one knows how to make that happen. Fortunately, the Army already has some ideas. They do the logical thing and search out a language expert, one with top secret clearance.
Across the globe, people are on edge, expecting complete annihilation at any given moment, but that’s not how things play out. In fact, it ends up being the exact opposite of destruction and nothingness. Arrival is the story of time, communication and empathy.
Amy Adams’ ability to inject subtle yet sweeping emotion into even the briefest of pauses works perfectly with Denis Villeneuve’s (Director) approach to storytelling. Adams’ portrayal of Louise Banks is nuanced, deliberate and precise. She takes Louise from autopilot to enlightenment and, despite the muted and restrained nature of Louise’s character, it's a compelling ride the entire time, .
Denis Villeneuve pieces together an ethereal alien encounter in Arrival. In fact, this movie reminded me of Upstream Color. Villeneuve utilizes that same dream-like approach to storytelling in his film. He puts the focus on communication, and without the need for much spoken dialogue, manages to convey quite a bit as it relates to time and identity. Arrival is a novel approach to the alien movie and I like the direction Villeneuve has taken.
Just as I had done while watching Upstream Color, about halfway though Arrival, I felt myself getting intensely emotional but I wasn’t entirely sure why. Eventually, I figured out what was going on in the movie and the emotion began to make sense. However, that breakthrough wasn’t even possible until after I’d hacked my way through the thick shroud of tension Villeneuve creates in the first half of the film. The dread was palatable and that made the story come to life instantly. Villeneuve’s precisely measured storytelling and Amy Adam’s delicately intense performance make for a quietly exciting movie.
Arrival – A
A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something, you should watch this. This is exactly what I go looking for when I go to the movies. I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind.