Now although I've just said there are ships and aliens coming to Earth this is in no way your alien invasion movie; if you're walking in expecting some Independence Day, Mars Attacks type scenario then you're going to be disappointed. Arrival stars Amy Adams as linguist Louise Banks who has been brought in by the government to help communicate with the extraterrestrials that have landed twelve ships around the globe; both she and Jeremy Renner's physicist, Ian Donelly must work out why they are here and what they want through their various visits inside a ship that has landed in Montana, USA.
The story director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer gives us is unique to say the least. Villeneuve's use of close-ups makes it such a personal and intimate story. His wide shots, including an impressive continuous shot, make the locations a gorgeous visual masterpiece to enjoy. All of these are scored amazingly by Jóhann Jóhannsson who's use of vocals in the music gives both an earthly feel but also surrealness to it. Villeneuve's decision when and where to use this music also proves well making impactful scenes and emotional moments.
Of course the directing can't always work on its own but Amy Adams gives one of the best performances I've seen her give. I really can't expand further on that without giving spoilers but things like her reactions to the extraterrestrials and moments towards the end certainly tell me that this was a good casting choice. The other two leads are Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker both of which do a fine job; if you've seen their other work then you know what to expect here, they are both brilliant actors and play their roles just right but Amy Adams certainly steals the show in acting terms.
Now for the plot of the film, I don't really know what to say. It's best to go into Arrival as unaware as you can with just the basic plot details such as the ones I gave earlier. I will however say that Arrival is one of those films that leaves you thinking about it for a couple of days. When the credits roll you just need a moment to ponder over it and piece together some of the revelations you've just had. When a film can do that I respect it. It's concepts of time, language, narrative and humanity is a lot to take in and certainly food for thought.
I will most certainly watch the film again and upon second viewing I will see it differently than before with the knowledge I have. Is it the best film ever made? No, I've seen films that I have enjoyed a lot more and serve my personal tastes better. Arrival will definitely lose some viewers with it's slow burn quality; some may feel it drags and if you're not interested in the art of cinematography and film-making then it will feel even slower to you. And as someone who calls themselves a cinephile, even I was surprised at the gentle pace some of the scenes were going.
In the end Arrival is stunningly beautiful with incredible acting and surreal sounds. It's commentary on stories is one I will remember and if I had to liken it to other films then I'd say some of the vibes I took from it were ones similar to that of Contact, Signs, and Inception. It won't be everyone's cup of tea but an interesting cup of tea it is.