“What do they want? Where are they from?”
Bad science fiction is about lots of extraordinary things – distant extraordinary planets/concepts/ideas in which distant extraordinary people do distant extraordinary things. For science fiction to be good (and here I define ‘good’ as being something that allows for an emotive response and a connection with the text it does not need to be less extraordinary but it does need to have something real. That little semblance that the world we are being immersed in is in fact not that different from our own – that our voyage into another reality has some truth that prevails. That is why Arrival may not just be the best science fiction movie of this decade but in fact one of the best of this century. Although the story has its beginnings in a science fiction event – 12 mysterious spacecrafts land on Earth in varying locations across the globe – it is rooted in truth and human experience. The result, it would not be hyperbolic to declare, results in a truly transformative experience.
What initially appear to be musings about the aliens and the driving force is linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Adams) trying to assist the military in translating alien communications it soon becomes clear that the deep meaning is far more than that and far closer to home. For those who have seen Villeneuve’s most recent work Sicario (click here for my review) it should not be expected that he once again ramps up the tension in this film – at times the uncertainty is on the brink of unbearable – yet the reward more than justifies the journey. That’s down to the part of Adams who gives a truly career-defining performance. Her character is truly well constructed and immensely well portrayed. Few actors are able to emote without making it explicit and manage to say so much when at times nothing is said at all.
Considering the current state of things and how 2016 has been this is the film the world needs. Far more cerebral and emotional than most mainstream science fiction fare this mesmerising movie will encapture and enrapture. This is an extraordinary tale lived by ordinary people profoundly lamenting the nature of human existence. The result is utterly sublime.
Dir: Denis Villeneuve
Country: United States
Year: 2016 Run time:118 minutes