November brings a solid slab of sci-fi with Arrival
I was skimming over the memories section of Facebook this morning and the first article up was a review I wrote of Interstellar. Autumn must be a key time for the release of thoughtful Sci-fi movies. The Disney led Star Wars onslaught each December presents an opportunity for the thoughtful movies to jump into the vacuum left in the blockbuster pre-roll hype. Last night we went to see Arrival, the latest offering from Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve. I was a huge fan of his movie Sicario – not least for the way in which he used Emily Blunt’s character as the moralistic voice of the audience. He follows a similar vein here, with an excellent showing from Amy Adams, as the linguistic expert thrown into the unknown, following what seems to be an alien invasion.
Arrival is a solid slab of hard-core sci-fi. This is not James Cameron territory, but rather cerebral narrative with some well placed and (kind of) unobtrusive CGI. This is sci-fi with minimal locations, a field, a tent, a house, inside a cavern with some smoke… It doesn’t need anything more than this. The story is about understanding and reaction rather than balls out explosions and gun fire (SPOILER: there is one explosion).
The narrative is woven around Dr. Louise Banks (Adams) and her emotional connection to the idea of communication and understanding. There is a scene where she explains the nuances of a sentence to her military superiors which acts as a metaphor for the pace of the film. That said, this is a sprint at 112 minutes – concise story-telling rather than sprawling mess (stand up 2001). The examination of semiotic structure of communication is paralleled by an interesting enigma resolution about Banks’ daughter which I think made for a nice pay-off to the cerebral nature of the film.
TLDR: What we thought of Arrival
Mrs L had read the short story and liked it. We both thought the film hit the mark – although there were some perplexed faces leaving after as the trailer really hints at quite a different movie. Arrival stands very well on its own 7 feet and really doesn’t need mis-selling trailers to attract an audience. Just don’t go expecting Alien: Sicario.
Good cast, good story and well directed. You should give it a go.