“…some glaring issues that I had with the story, but the beauty in the execution of the film makes up for it.”
Much like Sicario, Denis Villeneuve has again made a movie that people will not shut up about. It was getting to the point where I was fed up with hearing about how great Arrival was, right up until I saw it and understood the praise completely. Arrival is a film about strange alien spacecrafts that land all around the world, and how humans deal with that. Instead of having big action sequences and cool action heroes, Arrival offers a very real look at what might happen if we ever meet with aliens. The film follows Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), a linguistics professor as she attempts to communicate with the alien species along with help from a scientist played by Jeremy Renner.
Like I said, Arrival offers a very realistic look at what might happen if we meet aliens, and for that I have to applaud it. I have always been interested by space and what is living out there that we have yet to find, so to see something that is so realistic was a great feeling for me. The film is realistic in many ways, but it relies mainly on science. Arrival has tried its best to be the most realistic that it can be, and I love it for that. Of course I’m no scientist so I won’t be going in depth about all of the specifics, but it should be noted that they went above and beyond any expectations. The film itself is absolutely stunning. This is no surprise to me, being familiar with Villeneuve’s other works, but nevertheless I was left breathless at the beauty of many scenes. Again Villeneuve plays with the colour tone of the film to alter the mood that each scenes makes you feel. Arrival felt very bleak and synthetic, with quite a few scenes taking place under fluorescent lights. The effects in Arrival are at the border of not even being fake anymore. The detail and care that went into every portion of the film made everything that was happening feel realer than real. There was only one instance where I scoffed at a CGI slip-up, but even then it may have been the camera angle messing with my eyes. The acting in Arrival was also amazing, Amy Adams doing an absolutely stunning job in the film. Everyone else was great too, but Amy Adams was really the star. And finally the score, which was beautiful and so very fitting to the tone of the film. I though it was interesting that the score seemed to evolve (with different types of music) to fit the changing tone of the film.
I’m sure that everyone has heard all of these praises before, and though I truly do feel what I wrote it doesn’t come close to explaining what I feel about Arrival.
The rest of this review will be full of spoilers so proceed at your own risk.
I fucking hate paradoxes. I don’t necessarily think that they are lazy writing, but they make me inherently angry. It might be a symptom of small minds being angered by things that they don’t understand, but regardless I hate them. Arrival did a good job at explaining away the paradox with a single line ( “…they don’t perceive time in a linear fashion”), and I appreciate that. Instead of making the film needlessly complicated mike other films of the paradox-variety have done, Arrival kept it simple. That doesn’t meant that I hat paradoxes any less, but I appreciate the way the Arrival handled it.
What I’m not a fan of is how the film ended. Let’s start with the ‘solution’ to China stopping the war. Amy Adams sees the future as a memory, I get that. What I don’t get is the Chinese leader going up to her and saying, step by step, what exactly she did to prevent the war. Who the fuck speaks like that? When I thank someone for doing something I don’t give them a rundown of what exactly they did, because they are the ones who fucking did it. I understand that the story needed it to happen that way, but that goes back to my last point of hating paradoxes. And why was Amy Adams the only person with the power to perceive time like the Heptapods? It was stated that as soon as you understood the language, you could perceive time in a non-linear fashion. So when we see Amy Adams teaching a class of people how to speak like the Heptapods, why does that not open up a large amount of people to “see the future”. It’s like the film set up a ‘super power’ that was a gift to humanity, but then only gave it one person.
I appreciate the twist in the film, and as a matter of fact I think it was on Villeneuve’s best. What I didn’t appreciate is the lack of feeling that it had. Amy Adams’ character just learned that she will have a daughter, and that daughter will die. If you told me that right now, I would be an absolute wreck deciding whether or not I wanted to have this child. The emotional pain that she will feel wold be immense, yet she seems perfectly fine with doing it again. Was it because she already felt that pain because it is a “memory” to her? If so, why would she want to do it again? I just felt that the character was too quick to jump back on that wagon so to speak. I would have appreciated a bit more emotion in what was a very emotional decision. And speaking of that, the ending really fucking beat you over the head with everything you already knew. It felt like I was being prodded by an annoying person after just being told a joke and not laughing. “Do you get it? Do you get it? Do you get it? I know you said that you get it, but do you really get it?”. I still like the movie, but the ending took away a lot of the punch that it would have had if it were 10 minutes shorter.
Overall Arrival is a pretty great movie. There are some glaring issues that I had with the story, but the beauty in the execution of the film makes up for it.
I give Arrival an A