Dan's Review: "Arrival" provides a grand, yet simple truth
Amy Adams in Arrival - © 2016 - Paramount
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Forest Whitaker, Sangita Patel, Mark O'Brien, Abigail Pniowsky, Tzi Ma.
Written by Eric Heisserer, based on the short story “Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
There are two basic kinds of extraterrestrial “alien” movies. The first kind involves critters that come to conquer Earth, and the stupid humans must learn to unite or die, or some muscle-bound hero pulls off some implausible stunt to save humanity. The second type involves altruistic or naïve aliens who show up and want to be nice, but stupid humans strike out in fear, creating hand-wringing and a sense of “why can’t we all be nice to each other?” tragedy. Arrival appears to be something in the middle, and keeps you guessing until the third act. I like these kinds of surprises.
Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist who is called upon by Col. Weber (Forrest Whitaker) to enter one of 12 alien space craft parked over Montana. Her task is to try and figure out what the aliens want. Joining her is Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a scientist who is recruited to help her and perhaps figure out how the alien’s technology works. When Louise and Ian enter the ship, they discover that the “heptapods” (huge five-legged creatures with tentacles) only communicate by drawing a series of circles that look like Rorschach inkblots. As the human scientists try to figure out what the aliens want chaos reigns in the other eleven locations in the world, including China, where a hawkish general named Shang (Tzi Ma) seems poise to go to war. Throughout the story Louise is haunted by memories of her daughter, taken by cancer at an early age.
As tensions rise, Louise discovers a breakthrough in communication with the aliens, but she may be too late to avert war.
I can’t give away any more details without spoiling the Arrival’s beautiful ending, nor the lessons that can be learned. It’s a beautiful film with a great message about fear and facing life’s circumstances despite knowing the risks.
Amy Adam’s performance is perfect and heart-felt, along with Renner and the rest of the small supporting cast. Denis Villenueve’s understated vision results in a film that appears on a grand scale, yet very personal.
I was surprised and touched by the Arrival’s conclusion, and I think audiences will be, too.