Friday, November 18, 2016

Arrival - review

Arrival has all the hallmarks of a good science fiction movie. It comes across as genuine, has great performances, and does not relish in over-blown special effects. However, it is hard for anyone that is sensitive or finds themselves often empathizing with characters to enjoy this movie to its full potential.  It can feel like a kick to the gut when you are expecting something more entertaining.

A dozen alien spacecraft have landed in various locations on Earth. Governments struggle to find out the aliens’ intentions so they enlist the aid of linguist Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams. The aliens produce images to communicate, which require a lot of work to decipher and translate. Worldwide tensions mount as the different nations attempt to communicate but face a ticking clock that might lead to violence.

The good aspects of the movie are that the acting is great. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner both deliver solid performances that show a lot of range. At no point did they take the easy route and make the movie seem emotionally manipulative. The movie is not muddled with cartoonish effects or eye candy. The alien space ship is a simple blank black metallic hallway.  The creatures look like something that would result from the odd coupling of an Ent from The Lord of the Rings and the great race of Yith from the H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos.

The story is captivating, though confusing at times. The introduction of a time spiral aspect took me out of the movie briefly as I fought to catch up to what was happening. Despite this, the movie has a solid flow that does not seem wasted on pointless padding.  The awful nature of the twist ending is a mixture between bittersweet and damn tragic. The implications of it will leave audiences discussing the choices they would make in the characters’ stead.

Arrival is a beautifully shot and well-acted film that displays all aspects of good science fiction. On the other hand, the emotional scenes can be difficult for certain audience members. A person should go into this movie expecting to feel emotionally drained when the lights go up at the conclusion. It is still entertaining, but that can be marred by the sheer force of the ending that hits like a two by four to the skull. To say it is not a good movie would be a disservice to the many people that really worked hard to make a good film, but to say the film will not depress the hell out of you would be an outright falsehood as well.