Arrival (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2016)

Arrival reminds me of a rather fitting Arthur C. Clarke quote: “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe, or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Adapted from the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, the film is an unsettling and strange tale that leaves an ambivalent aftertaste.

The plot follows Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist and lecturer, who is asked to assist in discovering why twelve extra-terrestrial spacecraft’s have appeared in various large cities on Earth. Louise figures out the language the creatures are using and discovers she can communicate with them. As her ability to do so becomes more proficient, she begins to dream vividly about her daughter who is shown at the beginning of the film succumbing to cancer.

The film has received wide acclaim and when pitted against many of its contenders for the Oscars 2017, it is one of the better nominees. Visually the effects and cinematography are stunning and when accompanied by the majestic soundtrack, Arrival is quite a feat of production. In particular, the effects used to create the extra-terrestrials is highly arresting. Known as ‘heptapods’, the seven-limbed aliens resemble giant, gnarled hands, a visual that is made all the more intriguing by the use of a fog-like substance that enshrouds them.


Amy Adams carries the film and as always is a solid performer. Jeremy Renner provides equally fine backup, although Forest Whitaker has a disappointingly small amount of screen time. While there is nothing wrong with the performances per say, the script lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. As a science fiction movie, there’s a sense the script and general production were tailored to accommodate a wider audience than would be traditional. There are moments where this works better than others, but overall the film would have benefited from a stronger screenplay. Not the worst science fiction movie I’ve ever seen, but certainly not the best.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Michelle Audrey 2017


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