Review: Arrival (No Spoilers)

By Angel

Movie Description:

“A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.”

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  • Expectations

This was easily one of my most anticipated films of 2016 because of the director, Denis Villeneuve, and phenomenal cast which included Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, and Jeremey Renner. I absolutely loved Villeneuve’s previous films such as Prisoners and Sicario because they are powerful narratives driven by acclaimed performances. This was Villeneuve’s debut into the science fiction genre which was the most exciting aspect because it would indicate if he was versatile and truly ready to direct Blade Runner 2. Let’s get started!

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  • Story

While there are aspects about this tale I really loved, by the end, I was disappointed. I loved that the focus is about an alien encounter and a requested linguist has to figure out how to converse with the extraterrestrial. This was by far, one of the best depictions of how a response to an alien encounter would occur. I also love that through the tone of this film there was a sense of wonder and not fear. The camera work and visuals are jaw dropping making this an absolute must see on the big screen.

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  • Performances 

The stand out was clearly Amy Adams. She proves in this film that she’s one of the best actresses working today. She commands the screen with her subtle performance and has one of the most unique character arcs I’ve seen in a science fiction film. She had me crying within the first ten minutes, the similar effect that Pixar’s Up had with their storyline introduction.

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Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, and the rest of the cast were substantial. I do think the main focus was on Amy Adams’ character because this is a character piece film, but they delivered performances that made me believe in the crisis of the movie. I do think any actor just as great as them could have impacted the film in the same way.

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  • Music

The score was a character of it’s own and deserves to be praised. I loved how eerie, but yet hopeful it was. It was a perfect balance to capture the curiosity, hesitance, and enlightenment from the humans. The music was honesty gorgeous and I’ll be upset with the academy if it’s not nominated, it’s riveting. Jóhan Jóhannsson is BRILLIANT!

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  • Themes 

I loved the messages Villeneuve incorporated into his science fiction film. The biggest theme and most effective one I noticed was miscommunication. In this film the miscommunication is expressed with the aliens and also with how the countries were collaborating together. Communication is a vital life skill that enables us all to understand and better connect with each other. As we learn to respect each other through this beautiful skill we can build trust and come together to resolve issues. Communication is the key to allow us to find solutions, give affection, and feel compassion to thrive.

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The other themes I noticed in the film were love and time. The importance of time can be taken for granted from the majority of people. Time is a gift in which we can use productively or to love others and feel a sense of purpose. I definitely understood that these two themes were used, but didn’t find them as impactful as the miscommunication theme.

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  • Negatives

When there’s a film like this that does so many things excellently I really dislike having anything negative to say. I want to love every movie I see! I would hate to undermine any great film especially when someone else could really love it.

I thought Arrival was slow paced throughout. The pacing felt flat because it wasn’t gradually growing, it stayed consistently on the same note.

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This film is definitely not a casual watch, it requires some brain power which is not a negative at all, but I thought it was too ambiguous. This ambiguity in Villeneuve’s movies are nothing new; he also did the same thing with his previous film, Enemy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. I left thinking to myself that I had way more questions than answers from the movie, wanting more of a satisfying conclusion. I didn’t notice any risks from Villeneuve which I really wanted him to go for, but he played it safe with his beautiful and sometimes frustrating imagery.arrival gif.gif

It almost feels like an inside joke, except it’s not funny and he masterfully pays attention to detail. He really reminds me of Kubrick, in which every shot and detail has an importance. Most of the time I don’t understand what he’s trying to express in his films vividly and I feel like I’m missing out. This is a movie where there can be several interpretations and a person can choose any of those that satisfies them most.

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Without getting into spoilers, when I really thought about it, not a lot happened in this movie. It was really simplistic and underwhelming. I loved Amy Adams character arc, but there were a lot of logical errors and confusion I had with the movie. I usually do not have problems with logic in a film since I’m able to suspend my disbelief, but there were obvious ones in this movie and irrelevant subplots.

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One nitpick I have were the designs for the aliens, I thought they were dull and the way Amy Adams was deciphering the language I felt could have been done in a more interesting process.

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  • Overall

This is a film everyone has to check out on the big screen. It’s an experience with glorious cinematography, a message that’s thought provoking, music that’ll give you goosebumps, and an oscar potential performance.

I was disappointed with the overall story myself, the themes I saw expressed here were done much more effectively in Interstellar, and I thought the film was asking too much from us to fill in the blanks. Thanks for reading my review, go see this film, and I hope you love it! “If you could see your whole life ahead of you right now, would you do anything differently?” My rating for this film is 8/10 🙂

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