Arrival has been one interesting film for a long period of time if you have been a film critic as it has been on everyone’s lips since it started its film festival circuit. The film is the latest film from director Dennis Villeneuve who is a director that has been on th’e radar in recent memory, having directed the excellent film Prisoners and last years critically acclaimed cartel drama Sicario which I wasn’t as huge a fan of as everyone else, but I know that’s my personal taste and this won’t be his last dalliance into Sci Fi since he is set to direct the upcoming Blade Runner sequel which will be out next year. So I would really like him to do well at this since he is having to direct an unnecessary sequel to one of the greatest Sci Fi movies ever made, because there are no original ideas in Hollywood anymore!! The film is based on the book ‘Story of Your Life’ written by Ted Chang, but he hasn’t got Gillian Flynn’s syndrome and has written the screenplay for his own adaptation. No, the screenplay for this film has been written by Eric Haisserer who, up until this year, I would have said was a terrible choice, having written disastrous scripts for horror remakes including the dreadful remake of ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’, the abysmal sequel ‘Final Destination 5’ and seriously, until I saw it on an Amazon Prime list earlier this year, I had no idea there was a Final Destination 5 film!! Talk about flogging a dead horse, and of course his Magnum Opus are crap the terrible 2011 prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which nearly ruined one of my favourite horror films of all time. He has pulled things back, however, because he was one of the screenwriters on ‘Lights Out’ which, if you recall from my mini review from a few weeks back, I thought was a very good horror film. So he definitely has a good screenplay in him and based on that alone, I had some optimism for this film and his upcoming Van Helsing script. The thing is though, you want to give an opinion of what it is like going in to see this film, but it’s very difficult because the trailers give away very little, in fact we don’t get a glimpse of the Aliens, we don’t really know much of what is going to happen in the plot, so the only people who really have an idea of what is going on, is people who have read the book, which or course, since I’m incredibly Dyslexic, I haven’t. However, I like this, with so many trailers giving away so much of the plot now, it’s great to finally go into a film knowing virtually nothing, but this film had a lot of hype, and I have been told by people that have seen the film that it’s going to blow my mind, let’s find out if they were right.
Arrival takes place in the not too distant future where 12 ships have arrived at 12 locations on the planet to make first contact with humanity. Unclear of their purpose, Colonel Weber (played by Forest Whitaker) hires linguist Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) along with Ian Donnnelly (played by Jeremy Renner) to decipher the language, establish communication and discover these Alien’s purpose in contacting humanity, are they friend or foe. That’s really all I can go into with the plot summary. This is one of the hardest films for me to review because to talk about this film in any great detail, is to spoil the best moments. In fact, in short, I would actually recommend that you go and see the film and I would like to enforce a rule that the comments section be free of any spoilers.
Now I can recommend you see the film for several reasons, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I like it, for example, I could believe that I think it’s something worth experiencing, or that I believe it will have an appeal to a certain audience, but I’m not necessarily that audience. However, on this occasion I’m going to say that I really did like the movie and I am recommending it.
Arrival has a really tough job to do because science fiction now has such a long and rich history that it’s very difficult to be both original or innovative. Arrival manages to achieve both and it does it very well. The reason critics are really loving this film is that it really doesn’t feel that there is much like it out there, especially, when in the past couple of years, there have been so many sequels, remakes and franchise starters coming out, which feels kind of ironic considering the film is technically an adaptation. Now granted, book adaptations are nothing new, especially when it comes to science fiction, just take a look at the truckload of adaptations of films based on Philip K Dick novels, but somehow this film, still felt to me, like it had been made for the cinema. I know I haven’t read the book that the film is based on so I can’t judge it as an adaptation, however, despite the fact that this film has a very long running time, at the time I went to see it IMDB lists it as being 2 hours long, however, I personally believe the film is at 2hr 30mins long judging by the time I left my screening. It doesn’t, however, change the fact that the film manages to cram a lot into its time, yet the story feels fluid and to the point and really can hook you in. The beginning though, has a rather slow pace and really tries to dazzle you with its imagery, which we will get into later, along with the special effects, however, it knows it can’t rely on that and in the second half of the film it really hooks you in with the story. It unfolds at a brisk pace, giving reveal after reveal. In fact, there is a massive plot twist later on in the film that completely changes the movie and makes you rethink scenes that you have seen previously, like good plot twists are meant to do and I think if you haven’t read the book, the twist will really warrant re-watches of this film. The film builds and builds and it builds to a really good conclusion that wraps up the film rather nicely.
There are a couple of unanswered questions, but I think for the most part the story is self-contained enough that it will leave audiences satisfied. It also helps that the characters in the film react to events in a rather genuine and believable way. None of the characters are perfect and none of them are really incredibly flawed which made the believability of the scenario all the more real. Plus, it meant that I had something to root for and the film feels like a very realistic look at how first contact with Aliens might go. If there is one thing I can say about the plot without going into spoilers, is I feel that that despite the fact there is that Alien presence there, it feels more like a film about humanity itself. It also casts aside the idea of doing a movie like Independence Day and District 9 for something closer to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Anyone who has seen the film will know what I am on about with that one. I think that’s one of the things that separates itself out from its sci fi contemporaries Other than that, I am not going to go into too much detail, all I will say is I think it’s best to go into this film blind, having known nothing about it. Hell you could even watch the trailers for this film and you will be fine, since many of the scenes in the trailers and the clips which have been seen on talk shows have been heavily edited to change the way the scene goes and the scene appears differently in the final film, for example, we don’t really see what the Aliens look like in the trailer, however, the Aliens are quickly revealed towards the beginning of the film, but the build up to that reveal is done very well. Overall I think it’s a very well written film with some incredibly well written moments and I would be very surprised if this film is not nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at next year’s Oscars.
As for the actors, I will say that this film isn’t going to earn any Oscar nominations in the acting categories but I don’t think that’s down to their acting ability, I think it’s down to how the Academy tends to decide what makes a good performance and I think the performances in this film are actually dam good, especially Amy Adams who seems like she is carrying the film most of the time. Special mentions should also go to Jeremy Renner who is on top form once again and is proving that he is more than just Hawkeye in the Marvel movies. Forest Whitaker gives one of his better performances in a long time and I really hope he is going to be carrying this over to Rogue One next month. Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a really good performance in the film as well and I had forgotten how good an actor he really is having been first exposed to him in Law and Order where I also felt he gave fantastic performances. I’m also going to be giving special mention to Tzi Ma playing Chinese general Shang in a small role, who does deliver a really great performance. The rest of the cast do a decent job with their performances and I think overall it’s a very good cast list.
As for the effects, they are really good. The effects aren’t anything too amazing since I think there are several films who have effects just as good as this one, but I would be doing them a disservice if I didn’t say the effects really work. I will say, however, that what really sells it is the really good set design and the absolutely fantastic cinematography. This film has some really good cinematography and I think it will be up for an award or two on that part, which is highlighted especially by an early tracking shot, which is fantastic, and when we first see the interior of the ship. It’s really an excellent film to see for that reason alone and the film has a really visual flair and style all of its own, plus the music score was also really very good.
Are there any issues with Arrival? Without going into spoilers I think the pacing can be off at times and there are a couple of plot conveniences but I think they were explained well enough and they didn’t distract too much from the final product. I really, really enjoyed this film, Arrival is a very innovative and smart science fiction film. This had some great writing, fantastic cinematography, some really good performances and plot twists that will really warrant repeat viewings. It has been so difficult to talk about this without going into spoilers, but I think this film is coming out at the right time for the right audience and it tells a very interesting story that will resonate with a lot of people. I would say, for the visual flair alone, this is one film to try and see on a cinema screen since I don’t think it will play as well on a Television screen. It’s really cool, really interesting and I don’t think there will be another film like it for the rest of the year. Check this one out.
“Well, no mini review this week, since I had to pack in a lot of work before I go on holiday.”
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it and I am on VACATION, WOO HOO.
Calvin – Nerd ConsultantShare This Post: