Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’ Brien, Tzi Ma
Genre: Drama Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
In a time and age where sci-fi is all about defending earth from invaders or big battle scenes taking place in space and on distant planets, Arrival brings something that isn’t new to cinema but rather a true representation of what sci-fi is all about. Throughout the film, I was constantly reminded of the first science-fiction films and how they impacted me on how I thought of the possibility of life beyond earth. This thought translated onto the screen as the story really digs deep on mankind’s personal journey when being confronted with other lifeforms who come to “visit earth.” I was blown away by the cinematography, the writing, and the overall acting which would not surprise me if goes up for an Oscar the following year.
Violence/Scary Images: Arrival contains very few scenes of violence that are not gruesome in any way. The first image of the aliens may be disturbing for children, for they are much different looking than how mainstream film would portray them.
Language/Crude Humor: Very brief language. Nothing to really worry about honestly.
Spiritual Content: This really challenges one’s mindset on the view of God and the overall significance of humanity in the possibility of alien lifeforms existing out in the universe and beyond.
Sexual Content: None.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Wine is imbibed by side and main characters.
Other Negative Content: None.
Positive Content: Hope and trust play large factors into the film just when humanity is on the brink of war and chaos.
Based off of the award-winning novel Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang in 1998, Arrival is a science-fiction masterpiece that focuses primarily on humanity rather than the visiting extraterrestrial beings themselves. The reason for this is that it greatly reveals the possibility of how humankind would respond to visitors from another world and universe. The film challenges the idea of human significance in the universe due to large size of the spacecraft, the physical appearance of the aliens, and the sophistication of their language and technology.
It comes to the point where people and governments begin to develop a panic and paranoia about the future and if whether or not the alien visitors even want anything from them. Not only does it capture the serious possibility of humanity’s response, but also the possibility of how governments would work together or break alliances with one another simply by trying to find answers to something they clearly do not understand.
Starring as the leading role, Amy Adams completely steals the show in her brilliant performance as a linguistics expert who is the communication connection between the visitors and earth. As seen in the trailer, the language is very sophisticated and requires an extensive amount of research and patience to even translate a single word. As her character develops, audience gain an understanding of her personality and her overall exposure with the mysterious visitors, leaving audiences on the edge of their seats, pondering as to what she will discover in their communication.
Jeremy Renners lines up right behind her in his performance as the physicist who brings the more human side of the main cast. Along with his smarts and contributions to Louise’s discoveries, he also has a more humane side that audiences can identify with in a cast full of military figures and government representatives. Forest Whitaker also lines up behind them as a figure who follows orders and keeps everyone in line during a time where most would be and are panicking. While he does not reveal it in his actions, the sense of fear and concern can be read upon his face both for humanity and for Louise and Ian.
Furthermore, the significance of Arrival is also its the direction of cinematography, visuals, and overall screenwriting. Director Villenueve captures the absolute beauty yet fear of the film in all three areas, from the alien spacecrafts, to the frightening visuals of the alien appearance, and the character development of the main cast.. Even the alien’s language comes off as beautiful yet frightening due to its sophistication and translations made by Louise Banks. Her sole purpose in working with these alien lifeforms is to help humanity solve the problems rather than to cause problems, adding more to just how beautiful the screenwriting is.
How this new science-fiction film sets itself apart is the fact that it is not one’s typical UFO film such as Independence Day (1996) where large attacks take place or Man of Steel (2013) where aliens look, walk, and talk just like those of earth. Rather, Arrival pays tribute to past science-fiction films such as Director Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) as it contains a slow-paced yet heavy focus on the science of the science-fiction let alone the existential philosophy. It is one that contains a large amount of depth and thought-provoking moments on the “what if” scenario with intelligent lifeforms visiting earth. Therefore, audiences should have an open mind walking into this film rather than expecting the stereotypical action-packed, battle for earth scenario.
Director Villenueve has a very clean and positive track record of his recent films, from the plot twist mystery Prisoners (2013) to the Mexico drug cartel hunt Sicario (2015). In his latest film Arrival, he brings a rich quality and dialogue heavy story to the big screen, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats as they pondering what is going to happen next. Arrival is certainly a must-see especially for science fiction fanatics and followers and most certainly will be seen again as an Oscar nominees in due time.
Trey Soto holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from Biola University, emphasis in Interpersonal/Rhetorical Theory. He has been a Film Critic/Analysis for over a year at Geeks Under Grace and other websites such as Temple of Geek. In his spare time, he enjoys comic book literature, screenwriting, production assistant freelancing, photography, cosplay, and hosting his own film podcast T.V. Trey on Podbean and iTunes.
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