Arrival (2016) is a film I was very excited to see and I had high expectations because of the director, Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve has directed three of my favorite films in the last three years: Sicario (2015), Enemy (2014), and Prisoners (2013). I am happy to report that Arrival exceeded my expectations and is another win for Villeneuve as a director.
This is a film that I believe will take many people by surprise. This is not a shoot-em up Independence Day (1996) style, alien invasion film. It is an exceptionally smart and well written, thought-provoking science fiction film. You can tell fairly early on that a great amount of details and research went into the creation of this story. The story follows Dr. Louise Banks, a Linguistics scientist, as she attempts to make intellectual contact with the aliens. Linguistics isn't a science I have ever particularly had an interest in, but this film fascinated me and sparked my interest in the science of Linguistics. When this film drops on blu-ray, I hope they include a commentary track with Villeneuve. I would be really interested to hear how the team created the language and what real languages provided inspiration to the newly created alien language.
Denis Villeneuve has always been known as a director that successfully fuses together incredible visual style with phenomenal scores and Arrival is no different. Arrival is a beautiful film and personally, I believe this is Villeneuve's best work when it comes to cinematography and design. The shot that was featured heavily in the trailers that had me in awe was the first look at the shell (alien craft) in Montana and fog rolling in over the hills. While I had seen the shot in the trailer, seeing it on the big screen was jaw dropping—possibly one of the most beautiful shots I have ever seen. The set design for the internal of the shell is also quiet stunning. The contrast between the dark jagged walls and the bright white divider in the communication room is exquisite. While the design of the aliens themselves was impressive, it was the actual special effects associated with them that truly surprised me. When you see close up shots of the aliens, they look stunningly real all the way down to the texture that makes up their skin. Arrival is a film you definitely want to see on the big screen and I look forward to watching it in 4K when it is released on home video. Bradford Young was the cinematographer for Arrival and it is clear him and Villeneuve make an awesome team together. I am really looking forward to seeing more from Young, who is currently scheduled to be the cinematographer for the upcoming Untitled Han Solo Star Wars film.
Arrival is very much a character piece, so it is no surprise that the casting and performances are all around excellent. I particularly want to call attention to Amy Adams performance as Dr. Louise Banks. I personally think this is her greatest performance to date and I hope to see her receive a "Best Actress" nomination come Academy Awards season.
Arrival (2016) is a film that you need to set appropriate expectations for before you walk into the theater. It is not a “guns blazing” science fiction film—it is a an absolutely stunning and very forward thinking science fiction film. For me, it is easily a "Top 5 of the Year" contender and I hope to see Academy Awards nominations for "Best Picture", "Best Actress", and "Best Director". I give Arrival (2016) a 9 out of 10.