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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Movie Review - Arrival

Arrival (2016)
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, and Michael Stuhlbarg
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

While Arrival is most definitely a science fiction film, it doesn't feel like any science fiction film we've seen grace the movie screen in a long time.  Eschewing action or scares for a surprisingly humanistic approach, Arrival continues the intriguing streak of director Denis Villeneuve who has crafted films over the past three years that are varied in their subject matter and approaches, but place humanistic drama front and center.  Villeneuve has yet to helm that "amazing" film for me, but his work is never dull or boring and he has become a harbinger for quality cinema.

Aliens have arrived on Earth.  Across the globe, twelve extraterrestrial spaceships have positioned themselves at various locations, opening their hatches a few minutes a day never leaving their ships, but allowing humans to enter.  Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is summoned by US Army Colonel GT Weber (Forest Whitaker) to come to Montana -- the US location of the alien spacecraft -- to help decipher the language being utilized by the foreign beings.  Almost ink blot-esque in its design, Louise and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) try to bridge the communication gap with the alien creatures who are seemingly peaceful, but, seeing as how they are intruders, are a cause of great concern with the US government headed in Montana by David Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg) as well as agencies around the world.  With time ticking on an attempt at diplomacy with the extraterrestrials, Louise struggles to put her past behind her -- she lost a child to cancer a few years prior -- and help save the world from what could be intense warfare.

The most shocking aspect of Arrival is the simplicity of the Eric Heisserer-penned and Denis Villeneuve-directed film.  With nary a jump scare or frightening alien imagery, the film still manages to be oddly captivating as we in the audience utilize Amy Adams' eyes as our own.  As she sees the aliens for the first time, so do we.  As she communicates with them for the first time, so do we.  As she fights the government for more time to determine the purpose of their arrival, we're right there by her side.  Adams carries the picture and she does a great job of conveying Louise's intelligence and perseverance, as well as her growing connection to the extraterrestrials.

This is a human-driven story as opposed to an alien-driven one as is often the case in films of this ilk and Denis Villeneuve keeps the drama high by placing the focus squarely on Adams as opposed to the creatures with which she is communicating.  Beautifully lensed, Arrival is always a visual treat.  Unfortunately, the film takes a twist in its final fifteen minutes that while legit and comprehensible feels a bit tacked on and perhaps unnecessary.  It disappointed me a bit to be honest because up until that point the film had felt "real" and "possible" and then in its final chapter, the script shifts to something a bit implausible for this viewer.  I've discussed this conclusion with others and I'm seemingly alone in my assessment, but the ending concluded things on the tiniest bit of a sour note for me.  I still think Villeneuve is one of the brightest directors working at the moment and this is one of Amy Adams' best roles in a while, but the end just made Arrival a bit of a disappointment for me.  Your mileage may certainly vary and the film is still well worth a watch.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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