My first thought whenever I see trailers and advertisements for alien movies in general is usually that I’m not interested. Many movies involving aliens are just train-wrecks, but when I started seeing nothing but high ratings and positive reviews coming in for Arrival, I decided it was something that I needed to check out. Starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, Arrival depicts what happens when 12 massive, extra-terrestrial pods land all across the globe. Amy plays a renowned linguist name Louise who is called upon to try to figure out how to communicate with the creatures (heptapods) in the spacecraft that landed in Montana. Louise needs to learn their language enough to figure out why the creatures have come to Earth before countries such as China decide to take matters into their own hands and potentially put the whole world at risk. (WARNING: I tried very hard not to spoil much because of the exciting and mind-blowing nature and some of the surprise twists of this film. Still however, read forward at your own risk.)
This movie moves pretty slow throughout, which for me was kind of a draw back even though I know that some people will appreciate the slower pace. For me, it just seemed like the movie went long stretches of time without making any progress.
Another issue I personally had was about the predictability of the plot. It seemed like every ten minutes I was making a prediction about what was about to happen next, and if you asked the annoyed guy sitting next to me in the theater, he’d probably confirm that I got every prediction right. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t find it mind-bending, it just means that I wasn’t really surprised by a lot of the things that I was supposed to be caught off-guard by.
I didn’t particularly like how they handled the transitions between Louise’s visions and present time. It just felt awkward and at times even hard to follow. Also, Jeremy Renner’s character, Ian, was almost completely useless to the furthering of the plot. With the exception of cracking one message from the heptapods, he really didn’t contribute a whole lot to the film. Honestly, I think they just casted that part wrong entirely. It just felt like Renner was trying to be a type of soft, smart, and caring character that we really haven’t seen him play before and it just always felt off to me.
I had heard a lot of raving about the cinematography in Arrival and it definitely did not disappoint. There were many wide aerial shots that were just visually addicting for the viewer to admire. The first one that really struck me was from behind the helicopter as they were approaching the ship in Montana. I found myself saying “Wow, that’s so gorgeous” out loud in the theater.
In addition to that, I also found myself saying “That’s interesting” over and over throughout the film (to which I received an occasional “shh” from the annoyed guy sitting next to me). But really, this film was just so interesting on so many levels. From learning to communicate with the heptapods, to finally putting the pieces together about the “weapon” that they were trying to give to the humans and why.
Let’s talk about the acting performances for a second. I already mentioned my thoughts on Jeremy Renner’s character, but Forest Whitaker and Amy Adams both had very commendable performances. Forest Whitaker played Colonel Weber and did a solid job though I don’t think it was necessarily a difficult part to play. He did a good job in his role, but his character didn’t really do much after the opening few scenes. Amy Adams on the other hand, could be getting an Oscar nomination for her performance. I’ve never been much of an Adams fan, but I continued getting a very genuine impression of the emotions that she expressed throughout the film. Her character felt just about every emotion a person can feel in the course of a movie and they all felt very authentic to me which made the movie all the more sincere and relatable.
My favorite part about the mind-bending nature of Arrival was how all of the pieces fit together so well and it actually makes sense in the end. So many of this type of movie leave some room for doubt or interpretation. That room is often filled with silly fan theories that grasp at even the thinnest of threads to try to make the pieces fit together. That wasn’t the case with this film. At least to me, I felt like just about all the questions were answered and all of the little bits and pieces came together by the conclusion of the movie. Spoiling as little as possible, I loved the little easter eggs that they put in Louise’s visions that clued me in as to what was going on. If you are still planning on going to see it for the first time, pay attention to the opening scene as well as her visions. The earlier you start to figure out what might be happening to her, the more time you have for all the pieces to fit together in your brain and it just makes that much more sense in the end. I will spoil this however, in the opening scene of the movie Louise’s daughter dies of cancer. Once they skipped the point in time of which the majority of the movie was going to take place in, I immediately began to wonder what that opening scene had to do with anything. It seemed pointless at the time, but I knew that it had to be important at some point. It is.
I went in without much in terms of expectations but came out with a big smile on my face. Arrival is an experience that really brings you in and makes you feel like you are in the room with the characters trying to help them figure out why the heptapods are here. Aside from the pace and some nit picky stuff, I absolutely was blown away by how much I enjoyed this movie. For someone that has a hard time sitting through a movie that may have extended time with not that much going on, this isn’t the picture for you. As for me, I loved it and would watch it again in a heartbeat.