Ever since I was a young boy, I have believed that we are not alone in the universe. How could we? Am I really supposed to believe that there is no other intelligent live out there? Anywhere? Across the billions of stars across the universe? We live on the only planet with life on it? Give me break, there is no way that can be true? Will we ever witness an alien arrival? Who knows, that remains to be seen. But if we did, what would that encounter be like? There are so many movies out there that would let us believe that alien life in the stars is dangerous and tyrannical. But what if it wasn't? What if we were visited by creatures from another world, and they ended up being friendly, yet alone, provided something significant for us?
"Arrival" is unlike any alien movie you'll see this year, or any year prior. "Arrival" is not your typical alien invasion movie. This is a movie that possesses skewed marketing. The film looks more dramatic and less action-packed, and that's entirely true. "Arrival" is a drama film, not an action movie. If you are expecting anything along the lines of "Independence Day," you better move on, because that ship doesn't dock here. This is a movie that is defined by its drama, it moves forward because of its drama. It uses a small piece of action to create one or two intense situations, but that's about it. This is by no means, an action invasion movie that we are used to. If you are expecting that, you will be disappointed.
If I could compare "Arrival" to any film, it would be "Signs." I know not all of you are M. Night Shyamalan admirers and I honestly am not one these days either. But what made "Signs" special was that it was not the global conflict alien movie we are used to. It showed how an alien invasion affected rural America, a family that was distant from much of the action and how that affected them. It was a clever set up for the movie, because not everybody lives in a urbanized area, some people would only see an alien invasion through their television screens and I was amazed Shymalan was able to create a thriller that way. Even though we feel the affect globally, I wouldn't call "Arrival" a global conflict movie. Its not even a conflict movie. The entire movie virtually takes place in a makeshift military base outside of a landed flying saucer. Its a very small scale affair.
Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a college Linguistics professor who has had some tragedies in her life. Her husband is separated from her, her daughter died of cancer, her days are lonely. When the aliens start arriving on Earth, she is recruited Colonial Weber (Forest Whitaker), to try and translate and talk to the alien visitors. She works closely with an astrophysicist Ian (Jeremy Renner) and she goes into the flying saucer in order to make contact with the aliens. What do they want? Why are they here? Are they here with good intentions? Or sinister intentions?
The film isn't too big on special effects. How gravity works in the alien ship is actually quite cool and feels like an original experience. The aliens are kind of a disappointment, the only real disappointment I had all film. They float, they have tentacles, they make strange, moaning noises. That's the best they could do? But I suppose this isn't so much about the aliens and how this small group of people react to what the aliens want. "Arrival" is a wildly optimistic film, a film that completely rewrites what we can expect from alien invasion films and science fiction in general. I could easily put invasion in quotes, because the film really isn't about an invasion. The aliens come for a very specific reason, and I find it shockingly fitting that this movie came out right after the presidential election. The film directly relates to many feelings I have had since the election, and if you are feeling sore about it, I have a feeling "Arrival" will help you get through it. The film delivers a grand metaphor on the human race and how no matter where we come from, we need each other or we will continue to be self-destructive.
The work done by Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker is spectacular. Amy Adams is one of the very few actresses out there that can create a relate-able human being and carry an entire film with them. Never do the people she creates actually feel like characters. Her and Renner have incredible chemistry and create a realistic bond. Whitaker is just...classic Whitaker. Can't wait to see him now in "Star Wars!" "Arrival" may not be the slam! BANG! action movie you'd expect from the genre, but its easily a film we need right now.
FINAL GRADE: A