The best Sci-Fi film for a very long time.
Arrival centres around Louise Banks (Amy Adams) a linguistics professor who is taken on to initiate contact with an alien race when twelve of their crafts visit Earth. Louise must try to establish communication between the two and understand the alien’s language along with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) in order to uncover what the alien’s intentions are.
The plot to the film is a great new take on the “first contact” alien films of the past. It doesn’t jump the gun to all out war, but rather focuses on language and communication. It studies language through the scope of film by providing another, unknown language to us, the alien’s language. Through this, Arrival discusses film itself and, like the alien language, film is ambiguous, there’s no right or wrong translation, it’s all based on perspective.
The film touches on themes of not just language but time and life itself. Louise’s life is studied and the struggles she endures or will endure thanks to her experiences are put to the question; is it worth it? Is life’s pain and suffering worth it if it enables you some happiness. Something most would agree is definitely worth it.
The best thing about Arrival however isn’t just the plot, or the themes, or even the performances by Adams and Renner (which are very good), but much rather it is the fact that Denis Villeneuve knew exactly how to construct the film and why. Unlike a lot of sci-fi films, especially recent ones like Passengers (2016), Arrival doesn’t get lost in what it’s trying to say and portray. Villeneuve has perfectly crafted every moment of the film so it builds the overall story, arc, themes and messages. Nothing is wasted or thrown in for the sake of it. For example, Passengers at times felt very clunky, a mixture of various components which wasn’t blending the way the filmmakers would have hoped. It’s not awful, but Arrival does everything so much better.
It’s honestly too difficult to pick just one. However, as previously mentioned, the narrative and the way the film is pieced together is fantastic, and also very original. Arrival doesn’t bog itself down in the usual all out war tactics that these “first contact” films tend to follow, but rather it focuses on the actual first communication between the two races and the difficulties this provides and how messages can be skewed or lost in translation.
Arrival is one of the most impressive films of our time because it is such a brilliantly constructed film. Villeneuve has created a masterpiece in film making and a lesson to the industry on how to create a great film. This is why it’s nominated for eight Academy Awards including best film, best achievement in directing and best adapted screenplay, and it truly deserves it.