"Denis Villenuve’s latest piece of work is both terrifyingly poetic and breathtakingly beautiful"
Every now and then there is a film that lingers; plagues your mind for days after with a strange concoction of uneasiness and insane comfort that follows you around. This is riveting Science Fiction delivered by the man who gave us Prisoners and Sicario, French talent Villeneuve graces our screens with yet another equally suspense filled feature, the highly anticipated alien infused - Arrival.
Adapted from Ted Chaing’s short story, ‘Story of Your Life’, Eric Heisserer’s near impeccable script gives our trusted director good foundations to build on. Such techniques usually adopted in alien thrillers are well and truly thrown out the window and replaced with, unnerving, nail biting mystery, with the added bonus of not shoving it down our throats. One things for sure, you won’t be able to look away, not even for a second. As news reports flood TV and Radio networks of obscure aircrafts hovering over various points of the globe we are introduced to our leading lady and expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who is head hunted by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) in the hope to understand why these creatures have landed. Eeriness creeps into every corner as we, with Dr. Banks travel inside this foreign object for the first time to embark upon a tense journey that carefully pushes all the right buttons.
Even though we are presented with an alien premise, it’s the human edge Arrival encompasses that truly captivates. Like any decent script should, everything connects here and it’s the way these two species interact that aids this tale to the bitter end. What’s deeply interesting here is the way in which our kind react to this situation. Bewilderment, selfishness and the American ‘attack mode’ seem scarily close to the surface, even though these pods appear to be docile. Despite the uneasiness established throughout, for the most part we never fully see what these creatures look like; creating an enigmatic and wondrous sensation in a seamless manner. Using the skills of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson in quite the trio of films, this score grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. In a similar vein to Nolan’s Interstellar, Jóhannsson’s notes hit home in a delightfully spooky style. A strange calmness and serenity divulges itself in this world of chaos through heart tugging scales. We are taken on a deliberately slow but poignant route, where this intense score purely encapsulates the big reveal.
These egg come moon crescent shaped vessels initially pose a threat to the entire world until Banks along with help of mathematician Ian (Jeremy Renner) cracks the code. Deciphering languages is a big part of this narrative but the overabundance of scenes laced with symbolism representing new life and fresh beginnings give us details to learn, absorb and interpret in our own way – just as Banks does with this unknown dialect. It seems Amy Adams was made for this role; bringing the perfect balance of a broken mother and a determined translator that wants to crack this task even if it’s the last thing she does. Almost gliding through this incredibly fractured mind her character possesses, Adams brings great clarity in this utterly ambiguous world we are currently observing.
Gut reactions to Louise’s incredibly tragic backstory may be to push it to the back of your thoughts in order not to spoil the main event. Albeit, sit back and stomach such moments as all will be revealed in the final throws. In fact, the atmosphere skilfully created here may just be too much to bear if we didn’t have a slight balance with this story arch. Credit goes to Renner (proving that he can do more than shoot a bow and arrow) as her smart as a button side kick and when everyone else decides to shy away from this incredibly hard to digest situation it’s Ian who stays by her side and boy, does it pay off.
Arrival will leave you feeling empty, whilst not knowing what to do with the plethora of emotions currently swelling in your chest. Tears you shed will be a cocktail of joy, melancholy and confusion; which by no means is bad. The first thing you will want to do after watching - is watch it again and become engrossed in everything you missed the first time round and more.