If there is anything that director Denis Villeneuve is an expert at, it’s creating suspense and tension. Although it isn’t until the half-hour mark that we are introduced to the aliens, “Arrival” keeps you at the edge of your seat from start to finish. Instead of relying heavily on action, Villeneuve uses breathtaking visuals and haunting music to build tension. Visually, “Arrival” is one of the most stunning films you’ll see this year. The breathtaking cinematography creates a dark and eerie atmosphere which immediately sucks you in. This is perhaps most evident in the scene in which Dr. Louise Banks first meets the aliens. Beautifully shot and accompanied by unsettling music, this scene alone makes “Arrival” a must-see.
In addition to the breathtaking visuals, “Arrival” is worth watching for the superb performances given by an impressive cast. Every actor is at the top of their game, but ultimately the film is a showcase for leading lady Amy Adams. As a mother who is dealing with a heartbreaking tragedy, Adams delivers her most emotionally resonant performance to date. It’s a challenging role as it requires the actress to tap into heavy emotions and be vulnerable, however, Adams is perfectly cast. She is believable as both a loving mother and an intelligent linguist. Hopefully, her work in this film won’t be forgotten come awards season.
Thanks in large part to Amy Adams’ moving performance, “Arrival” is a surprisingly emotional film that tugs at the heartstrings. Although the film has been advertised as an alien invasion movie, ultimately it’s an intimate story about communication. Unlike most science-fiction films, it challenges the viewer to think and pay close attention. If there is a downside to this, it’s that “Arrival” may not appeal to everyone. The film’s mind-boggling plot coupled with it’s slow pace may test the patience of mainstream audiences. Those looking for an action-packed ride will be disappointed, because this is a thoughtful and reflective film that takes it’s time to unfold.
If I had a minor gripe with “Arrival”, the film suffers from an ambiguous ending that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Instead of tying up loose ends, the film ends abruptly with a shocking twist. Although it is somewhat confusing, it sparks a lasting discussion and makes you want to talk about the film soon after it ends.
Despite it’s flaws, “Arrival” is an intelligent and thought-provoking science-fiction film that deserves to be seen. While it may not appeal to mainstream audiences, it is an original, extremely unique film that you don’t come across often today. In a day and age when Hollywood seems to be running out of ideas, it’s reassuring to be reminded every now and then that movies like “Arrival” are still getting made.