Review: Arrival

Amy Adams in Arrival

Arrival fascinated and enthralled from the first moment. Everything about it was brilliant. I’m glad I went to see it on the big screen. I encourage you to do the same.

The story itself was told in a unique way. I’m not sure how to summarize it. How’s this: Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguist who saves humanity with communication skills? No? Okay, how’s this: alien ships arrive on earth because they want to leave an IOU. No? Okay, how’s this: when all you have is a missile, everything looks like a target. No? Okay, how’s this: If you knew the future, would you do anything to change it? Or how’s this: giant squid-like aliens think Louise Banks is the bomb.

The truth is, I can’t summarize the movie. You have to live through it as Louise Banks does.

Amy Adams is brilliant here beyond anything I’ve ever seen her do. Most of her acting depends on her ability to convince us that she’s thinking amazing thoughts. And that she’s scared shitless. She’s convincing, very convincing. I know there’s Oscar buzz around Amy Adams performance in Nocturnal Animals, but I’m nominating her for Oscar buzz for Arrival.

Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in Arrival

The other main characters in Arrival are Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly, a physicist Louise works with when trying to communicate with the aliens. Forest Whitaker is Colonel Weber, the most sane of the military personnel who suddenly grab up Louise and order her to talk to aliens.

Communication is hard enough when two beings supposedly speak the same language. What would you do to open a conversation with a being whose vocalizations and writings were a seemingly impenetrable unknown?

The special effects are subtle but fascinating. They aren’t big showy special effects like a superhero flick. Make no mistake, however, Louise Banks is a superhero. Arrival can be as loud and exciting and tense as any thriller you’ve ever seen. It’s also quiet. Contemplative. There are glimpses into Louise Banks’ life with her child that are warm and loving. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for the director and the actors to achieve this balance.

Denis Villeneuve directed with Bradford Young doing the cinematography. Arrival is filmed beautifully. Bradford Young is fast becoming one of my favorite cinematographers – he’s a genius with the intimate scenes and an artist with the long view. Whether we are looking at Adams’ nose and mouth as she kisses the fingers of a tiny child or clouds spilling over a Montana mountain, it’s all art in Bradford’s hands.

My advice? Go see Arrival.

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