• Review: Arrival (2016)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Wed Nov 16 17:02:55 2016
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: Twelve alien craft land at apparently random
    locations on the Earth's surface. This creates a
    dangerous situation that could lead to a third world
    war. A linguist and a physicist are more or less
    drafted to head up a team trying to find why these
    apparently alien craft are here. Amy Adams gives a
    compelling performance as a woman trying to break the
    most important and also one of the most difficult
    puzzles in human history. Denis Villeneuve directs a
    screenplay by Eroc Heisserer based on a story by Ted
    Chiang. This is probably the best science fiction
    film of 2016. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    One of my top ten films of last year (actually #4 on my list) was
    SICARIO, directed by the-to-me unfamiliar Denis Villeneuve. I made
    a mental note to pay more attention to his films. But I did not
    need to bother. This year he is back with a much larger calling
    card. At a time when we have been getting some really good science
    fiction films Villeneuve has managed to have a stand out work of
    science fiction cinema. At one time written science fiction
    frequently would look at the theme of first contact with alien
    beings and the effort to understand aliens. Frequently these
    stories broke down assuming aliens were just like humans except
    they had funny accents or unpronounceable names. ARRIVAL is one of
    the rare films that has suitably alien aliens and generates a real
    sense of the incomprehensibility of an alien species.

    Dr. Louise Banks (played with subtlety by Amy Adams) is a
    linguistics professor who had done some work to help the military,
    work she later regretted. She is at first annoyed when a news
    story interrupts one of her lectures. It seems that twelve huge
    spacecraft of unknown origin have each chosen an arbitrary place on
    the Earth's surface and is hovering just a few dozen feet in the

    Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) had been impressed with Banks
    in the past and asks her for a small favor. Could she please be
    one of the two people making the first contact with
    extraterrestrials and at the same time head up the effort to
    communicate with them? How could anybody refuse such a request?

    Jeremy Renner plays theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly, the other
    half of the communications team. Together they visit the strange
    inside of an alien craft and will be attempting to understand
    whatever they find. All the while the international political
    atmosphere is supercharged with the uncertainly of just what will
    the intervention of aliens do to destabilize the political climate.

    One has only to look at INDEPENDENCE DAY to see that this could
    lead to a slam-bang action story, but instead Villeneuve gives us a
    serious thought piece, part puzzle for the characters, part puzzle
    for the viewer, part philosophical introspection, part imaginative
    look at the nature of time. While the build is slow, ARRIVAL is
    full of a cerebral tension. The alien is believably alien and the
    alien language puzzle is made nearly comprehensible. The real
    enemy is not someone with a gun but the unknown that has to be

    There was a time when science fiction films were about flying
    saucers or giant insects. Or they might have flying saucers come
    to Earth, but then we would be treated to rays that vaporize
    artillery and possibly soldiers with it. There are some battles in
    ARRIVAL but the aliens are not participating and the fighting is
    kept off-screen. The film's thrills are all more cerebral and a
    sign that science fiction films are maturing.

    ARRIVAL is based on a sophisticated story by respected contemporary
    science fiction author Ted Chiang. While the film is not entirely
    faithful to the Chiang it is told on a level matching that of the
    story. It is a story aimed at an adult and intelligent audience
    featuring an adult and intelligent performance from Adams and
    Renner. ARRIVAL expects a lot from its audience at the same time
    it is giving more. I rate ARRIVAL a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale
    or 8/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)