Director Denis Villeneuve tackles the sci-fi genre with his new film. “Arrival” focuses on an elite team of experts who try to figure out why multiple extraterrestrial spacecrafts have landed across the planet and what it means for the human race.
“Arrival” tells the story of linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) having to uncover the reason why extraterrestrial beings have landed on earth and what their purpose is. On the surface, “Arrival” may seem just like any other sci-fi film where alien creatures arrive on Earth and the public and government are helpless as the extraterrestrials start demolishing cities.
Compared to this year’s “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Arrival” is a glorious rejection of what the sci-fi genre has previously offered with alien invasion films. “Arrival” is deliciously cerebral in its execution and storyline. While alien invasion films have usually been bombastic and overwrought, “Arrival” choses to be subdued and ultimately more emotionally compelling.
That’s not to say that the film is simple. “Arrival” is wonderfully complex, but the execution of this complexity is easy to digest and absorb. That is partly due to Amy Adams. Adams gives a performance in which the audience can relate and tap into her current struggles. She is able to convey multiple sides of her character in the film that give the audience someone to root for and relate to. By exuding the right amount of sadness, confidence, nervousness, relief, etc., she essentially is the glue that holds the film together. In the hands of another actress, the twists and turns that happen to her character might not have been as masterfully acted.
But what helps Adams even more is the commendable supporting cast that surrounds her. Forest Whitaker plays a senior US military officer who strives to keep everyone on task. Thanks to Whitaker’s magnetic presence as an actor, the role never feels stale. Perhaps the biggest help to Adams in the film is Jeremy Renner. Renner plays the role of a mathematician who ends up working quite closely with Adams in trying to figure out the language and purpose of the aliens. Renner and Adams play off of each other well and push the storyline along. The two are outsiders to their foreign surroundings, and this allows the audience to become attached to them. Renner and Adams bring the audience into the story and make it easier to break down the linguistics and mathematics.
The cast and story are both commendable, but the real thanks go to the vision of Villeneuve. The director offers a film with a wide scope that never faults or becomes unfocused. He knows exactly what he wants to accomplish in the film’s running time and he goes from beat to beat with utter focus. But what’s truly astounding about Villeneuve is his usage of time in “Arrival.” Time plays a key role in the film, and it becomes the reason why the film ends up being completely unique to the sci-fi genre.
Ultimately, “Arrival” is a clever and captivating sci-fi film that anchors its cerebral ideas from Villeneuve with a moving and emotionally outstanding performance from Adams.