There are sci-fi movies that transcend science and embrace philosophy; a very few of them transcend philosophy and enter a deeply emotional course. What’s necessary for them to become masterpieces? There are too many factors at play: great direction, brilliant screenwriting, incredible visuals and a memorable score. It’s a very exclusive club and Arrival belongs to it, together with jewels such as Gattaca and Interstellar.
Louise (Amy Adams) is an expert linguist who has experienced a loss causing a void impossible to fill. Her apathy is so strong that when 12 giant alien spaceships land in different locations over the planet, she ignores the consequent global chaos. However, due to her peerless talent, she’s selected by the government for the team in charge of trying to communicate with the aliens on the ship that arrived in the US. Initially every country shares their own daily progress, ultimately though they isolate from each other as supremacism takes mankind on the verge of global war.
Denis Villeneuve has more than proved (Prisoners, Sicario) his art for telling stories with a different pace, slow but incredibly effective. His trademark smooth wide-angle shots and aerials give a realistic feel to the picture. Long-time collaborator Jóhann Jóhannsson once again offers a sound-driven soundtrack, with Middle Eastern influences and eerie noises. But the emotional scope of the film is heightened by the use of Max Richter’s gem On the Nature of Daylight.
Adams delivers a memorable heartfelt performance which is finely paired by Renner’s deliberately discreet on-screen presence. It’s sad that Michael Stuhlbarg, who interprets a rude CIA official (think Wahlberg in The Departed, down a notch), and Forest Whitaker do not have more scenes in the script.
Tackling complex non-linear concepts, Arrival is an emotionally devastating slow-burner. If expectations were already high for the Blade Runner sequel, now they are skyrocketing.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Arrival is released nationwide on 11th November 2016.
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