When I first saw the trailers for Arrival I thought it was interesting and that it was my type of movie, in the way that most sci-fi extraterrestrial movies are, but it didn’t necessarily blow me away. It looked kind of generic and I put in that “I’ll see it when I see it category.” So when it started getting all it’s critical buzz and eventual nomination for Best Picture I was genuinely surprised and had to see what all the fuss was about.
The basic plot for the movie is fairly simple and typical of movies in this genre; alien ships appear out of nowhere at numerous locations around the world and everybody is frantically trying to figure out whether they came here in peace or came looking for war. However, they do add their own touch to the proceedings by focusing on the process of actually trying to understand their language and asking them that very question.
For such a massive global event, the movie manages to feel extremely intimate and grounded and it’s probably the best approximation of how things would play out if we ever did get visited by alien life.
While the overall plot isn’t anything entirely new for the genre, they do break away from the norm and produce one of the more cerebral sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a slow going affair without much in the way of action or high-energy, but that’s not to say that’s it’s plodding. It’s very deliberate in it’s pacing and puts the focus almost entirely on one person’s interactions with the aliens. For such a massive global event, the movie manages to feel extremely intimate and grounded and it’s probably the best approximation of how things would play out if we ever did get visited by alien life. I liked the story and thought they did a great job with letting scenes breath, but I will say that I thought the central mystery would have a much bigger payoff than it did.
The whole movie is almost entirely set in one location and in close quarters, but some great cinematography and special effects kept things from getting too stale. There were some great shots of the ships looming against the skyline.
This wouldn’t have worked as well if it wasn’t for Amy Adams’ stellar performance. She really delivered and kept me engaged in the proceedings even after I had already pieced together the mystery.
The cast of characters basically boiled down to three central characters; Louise (Amy Adams), Ian (Jeremy Renner), and Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). Forest plays the smallest part of them all and only provides a few scenes, I wish he had gotten a bigger part, and Jeremy is only slightly more involved than that. They both serve as straight up supports for Louise who is the driving force behind the movie. This wouldn’t have worked as well if it wasn’t for Amy Adams’ stellar performance. She really delivered and kept me engaged in the proceedings even after I had already pieced together the mystery.
Have you seen Arrival? What’d you think about it? Do you think it’s deserving of a Best Picture nomination? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your rating for the movie.
So the big question at the heart of the movie is “Why are they here?” I thought it would get played up more but it never really did build up anywhere and about half way through I already had the answer. They wanted to give us a “tool” to help us in the hope that we’d return the favor in a thousand years when they’d need our help. The tool turned out to be their language, which Louise deciphered.
Things got a little wonky with the explanation of it’s importance though. Their language was so important because it would allow us to observe time in a completely different manner? Not in the linear way we do now, but as they do, where past, present, and future are all happening at the same time. They actually hinted at this with her daughters name, Hannah, because it doesn’t have an ending or beginning. And again with their actual language, as it’s in a non-linear circle.
They hinted at this idea of time throughout the movie as Louise kept having visions about her life which was eventually revealed as being in the future. My only question is why is she the only one having visions, even though others have started to understand their language as well.
There was a also deeper meaning about language uniting humanity, as it was ultimately this new universal language that forced us to come together.
Arrival's slow, deliberate pacing and intimate focus make for one of the most subdued, cerebral sci-fi movies I've ever seen. It's fantastic writing and a stellar performance from Amy Adams kept the movie interesting even after I pieced together it's central mystery.