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Spoiler Free Review for Arrival

Title: Arrival

Date: 2016


Director: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Synopsis: When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team, led by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers that could threaten their lives and possibly humanity.

Arrival is the new science-fiction, alien-invasion film from visionary master Denis Villeneuve. The alien-invasion movie is something we have seen on many occasions, stretching all the way back to the early 20th century. The alien-invasion films were big in the 1950s, with films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders from Mars being highlights. This was during the peak of the Cold War era, and tension between the United States and The Soviet Union were at an all-time high. US citizens were scared of a nuclear disaster and fearful of invasion and destruction from their rival countries. Films about aliens invading and causing havoc were surprisingly very relevant and connected to those during that time. In the case of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, fear of Soviet Union spies invading the United States was a real concern, which explained the basic plot for the film, aliens duplicating into humans and attacking innocent American citizens.

We have had many alien-invasion movies since the 1950s. However, over the past two decades most of them have been popcorn-type blockbusters like Independence Day. These type of films were missing a specific message and were not really relevant to issues in our society, and the main purpose were to just entertain. If you are expecting a fast-paced, fun, and entertaining thrill ride like Independence Day, than you are not going to like Arrival. Arrival is a film that is more concerned with engaging the viewer with awe-inspiring directing and cinematography, and an intelligent script, rather just spoiling the audience with non-stop, meaningless action and one-liners. This is a very layered film that can be interpreted in many different ways. It is extremely original, and most importantly, it can connect with the viewers on multiple levels that most other alien-invasion, or even science-fiction films have ever been able to do.

Arrival is the latest film from the ever-so-talented director, Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve is easily one of the best filmmakers working today. His last three films, Prisoners, Enemy, and Sicario are all fantastic films. They all are well shot, edited, and highly original. If this film could be compared to any of his past films, I would say Enemy would be the closest comparison. The score and visual imagery of Enemy is very similar to Arrival at times. However, it’s very different from Prisoners and Sicario, which is a compliment, because it is very hard for a filmmaker to consistently create exceptional films that are different from one another.


Villeneuve has a way of engaging the audience by slowly building tension.  He is a very patient filmmaker who doesn’t reveal anything too soon, but awards the audience with extremely memorable scenes that don’t feel rushed. Without giving away too much, the visuals and look of the aliens and spacecrafts were extremely memorable and unique. Villeneuve has a unique way of bringing incredible visuals in a large scope, but at the same time, creating tension in limited space and environment. You can tell that he was inspired by some of the best directors like Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick. The cinematography is also  great, as you can see in the above picture. The film is beautifully shot, with phenomenal camera work that bring a mysterious, dark, and gloomy vibe to the film.

This is a smaller film compared to a lot of other bigger budgets films as far as the cast is concerned. The film focuses only on a handful of characters, and is told from the point of view of Amy Adams’ character, Louise Banks, who is a linguistics professor tasked with trying to communicate with the aliens. Adams does a phenomenal job creating realism with her character and having the audience sympathize with her, because her job is extremely difficult and could lead to drastic consequences. This is easily one of the best performances I have seen from Adams, and that’s saying a lot, because she has a number of great ones under her belt. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker also give fine performances, but their characters aren’t nearly as important as Adams’ character.

This film might go over a lot of peoples head, especially a younger audience. It is a very mature film and has some very complex viewpoints and ideas. It requires a lot of patience, and is more slow paced than most other blockbuster type films. Arrival, in a way, is filmed like an independent film, but is shot in a much larger scope. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey, but not nearly as confusing and ambiguous. This film probably does require multiple viewings to fully grasp what the director and writer are trying to tell us, and to see how everything connects. It is extremely original and challenges the viewer to think. Who knows, this film has the ability to really move people or even allow them to think differently about their lives. It is that good.

Overall, Arrival is a must-see film, that is extremely original compared to other films with a similar premise. It is more realistic and grounded compared to other alien-invasion films, but is so much more than just an alien-invasion film. The way this film talks about how language and memory and how they can connect and build/hurt relationships is very smart and fascinating. The directing, cinematography, writing, and acting are all fantastic. Amy Adams carries the entire film, and Denis Villeneuve hits another home-run, and has proven he is easily one of the best directors of our time. This film is one of his most optimistic and emotionally charged films. It stands out among his entire filmography, and more importantly among some of the best science-fiction films of recent memory. Villeneuve is a massive talent, and the Blade Runner sequel just can’t come soon enough! My grade for this film is:




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