The science fiction genre has evolved into some of the most prolific imagery and storytelling of the silver screen. Denis Villeneuve’s splendid “Arrival” has the foreign director taking on uncharted territory and putting forth his finest film of his career yet.
Starring Academy Award nominee Amy Adams, “Arrival” tells the story of unidentified spacecrafts that enter the earth’s atmosphere. Just hovering over the ground in dozens of locations around the world, it is up to a linguist and a scientist to break the language barrier and find out if their intentions are honorable or hostile.
Natural comparisons will emerge to Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” and while that film’s ambition was generally accepted and positive, “Arrival” taps into something Nolan’s film only hoped to achieve. The exquisite class in which Villeneuve’s film exists is such a daunting and audacious triumph. Eric Heisserer’s script may at first feel familiar, perhaps too much so, as the first half of the film seems like the same foundation we saw with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity.” When the story is turned on itself in a soft and credible fashion, “Arrival” opens itself up as one of the year’s most brilliant feats.
With performances that have spanned a vast net of quirky and strong supporting players (i.e. “Junebug” and “The Fighter”), Amy Adams has emerged as a fully realized leading lady. While some will attest her previous lead roles in “Enchanted” and to a lesser extent “American Hustle” as proof that she’s already mounted this campaign, discovering what she does here will make you change your perception. She is a talented artist, sensitive and endowed with the tools of a legendary actress. It is a beautiful work.
Co-stars Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker are served well in their minimal roles. As the slick but engaged scientist, Renner approaches his role with the utmost candor. Whitaker, as an army leader, is blunt, honest and frank – everything you would want in anyone playing a character such as this.
Cinematographer Bradford Young is utterly suave in his usage with the lens. Already capturing our hearts with his works on “Selma” and “A Most Violent Year,” Young’s glossy and poised framework is not only exciting, but visually moving.
For the third year in a row, composer Johann Johansson raises the bar for nearly all creators of the musical language. “The Theory of Everything” and “Sicario” were just the beginning for him. He mounts an orchestra of vast sensations. The sentiment of each scene is built within Johansson’s response to the words on screen. He not only has respect for the visual works being created, he compliments the details in which the expressions and languages endure. It’s another Oscar-worthy work that will undoubtedly bring him another nomination.
“Arrival” is a film that can seem bigger than itself. Perhaps it’s even “too smart.” However, movies should challenge the viewer. The stamina of a film rests on its tenacity and persistence to dare the viewer to explore new thoughts and feelings. “Arrival” achieves just that. It is a film that should be noted in multiple Oscar categories and revered by all except the most impudent viewer. This film is not to be missed.
“Arrival” is distributed by Paramount Pictures and opens in theaters on Nov. 11.