‘Arrival’ sees 12 identical spaceships arrive on Earth in 12 seemingly unrelated locations while our story follows linguistics expert Louise, played by Amy Adams, and her struggle to interpret Earth’s new visitors.
Amy Adams is absolutely brilliant in this film with such a believable, powerful performance, she really commits to the role and evokes empathy, seemingly at ease. The rest of the cast in comparison just look weak, Jeremy Renner is fine in the role though he is woefully miscast as a theoretical physicist, Forest Whitaker is good, save for the accent that he occasionally lets slip. In fairness to the other actors, the film is pretty much just a showcase for Adams’ character as she is given the bulk of the script, which at the same time just makes you appreciate Adams’ performance even more as without her gravitas, the film could have easily sunk.
The story was fascinating and it evolved and developed further and grew more complex as the film progressed until towards the end when it had you questioning events that you’d seen, assumptions you’d made and yet never talked down to you. The film treats you as an intelligent viewer and never slows down to let you keep up with the story. In that way it is a perfect comparison to the story of communication between the aliens and Louise, in that we as an audience are often times as lost as she is, which is great in helping you connect with her character and really gets you into her mindset.
Denis Villeneuve, the director, made a choice to set the film not on a sunny day with the birds chirping and children laughing, but on a miserable, rainy day and that simple choice not only makes the film feel genuine when compared to other Sci-fi films of this ilk, it also allows the use of interesting visuals. Such as a giant black monolith in the middle of an otherwise empty field, set against a grey sky. Those kind of visuals are strewn throughout the film and at times, are breathtaking in their beauty as well as being impressive.
The score, again just adds to this eery beauty the film has about it, incorporating some of the alien noises throughout in often subtle ways that are used so effectively that it can be used to evoke dread, sadness or even a sense of joy, of realisation. The score truly is something special and works in tandem with the film perfectly, building on the visuals as well as helping form an emotional connection, but also to keep you emotionally invested.
There are some pacing issues, the films need for complication also meant that there were scenes that could have been removed and we wouldn’t have lost anything. There are times where the film couldn’t decide if it wanted to focus on Louise’s story or the story of the military, with how different people react to these aliens. While it was interesting it did throw off the pacing and could have used some tighter editing to either allow those scenes to flow better with each other or to remove them entirely.