Every year there is one movie that I can point to and say that is the one that started the fall movie season, my favorite time for movies. Mercifully the mindlessness of summer films, however fun at times, dissipates into a cluster of films where character, story, cinematography, set design, and generally speaking, intelligent thought are all not only present but heralded. I can say confidently that Arrival is that much sought after movie for the 2016 Fall season. At least for me it is.
Word of mouth from the very first screenings of Arrival were nothing but the highest of praise calling it one of the best sci-fi films ever or phrases equivalent to such a bold statement. I have stated in the past that films hardly ever live up to such hype but every so often that rare film comes along carrying so much praise and expectation and somehow it either lives up to the hype or surpasses it completely. Arrival is in that rarified air of excellence expected and excellence achieved. For myself, the hype lived primarily with its cast and director.
Director Denis Villeneuve has done in such a short amount of time what it takes some their entire film careers to do; he has become a name synonymous with great films. From Enemy to Prisoners to Sicario and now Arrival, there is no mistaking this man’s unwavering talent and affinity for in depth storytelling that motivate the equally mesmerizing characters that inhabit his film worlds. He seeks complexity and asks his audiences to be ready to contemplate his films and their meanings, possible ambiguous endings and the reasoning behind his characters’ decisions. Whether it’s the desperate acts of a father in ruins (Prisoners) or a husband examining his very self and why he does the things that he does (Enemy), Villeneuve’s films are nothing short of spectacular pieces of art that inspect, observe, maybe even judge the actions of mankind in moments of unimaginable stress and peril.
Arrival is his most ambitious effort to date in terms of scale and themes. But one aspect that makes this such a marvelous experience is the small scale setting with minimal characters and mostly a singular location and yet everything that transpires is of the utmost importance to the entire human race. The smallest of moments possess the biggest of consequences. One slip of the tongue, one rash word and all may be lost. Like his previous films, this too asks the audience to really pay attention and if you do, the pieces fall into place creating a picture that is truly wondrous both in the visuals and story. The structure is seemingly all over the place with apparent flashbacks without warning and moments that don’t make any kind of sense. I promise they do. Remain patient, remember what you’re hearing and seeing and all will be revealed and for me, when it was revealed, I was in awe. I don’t experience movies like this nearly often enough so when I do I can’t help but relish in it, to dwell in its complexities of both character and storytelling. I love a good thinking person’s film whether it’s drama or sci-fi or in the case of Arrival, both. I cherish the idea that maybe I didn’t catch all that I could and a second viewing is needed to really soak it all in. Arrival, I will see you again, soon.
Vibrant cinematography and always compelling storytelling aside, Arrival thrives in the performances of the actors that carry this extraordinary film into the realm of instant classic (my opinion). Amy Adams delivers one of the best performances of her career as does her American Hustle alum, Jeremy Renner. Together they pair up as a likeable duo whose singular purpose is to find out why the sudden visit from these very much “out-of-towners.” Forest Whitaker is a strong presence as the man in charge who wants peace but is prepared for all out war.
Humanity’s fate hangs in the balance and even the smallest miscommunication could lead us into oblivion. Along with such hefty consequences, there are also themes of working together for the greater good, forgiveness, tremendous loss, and acceptance of what is and what will be. However big this film can feel at times, it is always grounded in reality where humans as a whole are fallible and most certainly set in our ways. It takes an unreasonable amount of force but in far and few between moments, mankind is actually capable of working together. This is a very human, character driven sci-fi drama that ponders what it means to understand those that are different from us and to learn from great loss in a way that will propel the future, in both the grandest sense and smallest most personal ways. Arrival is one of the best films of 2016, without question.
Rated PG-13 For: brief strong language
Runtime: 116 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
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