Arrival may not seem terribly appealing when watching the trailer. It appears we’ve seen this premise way too many times. But then it gets nominated for Best Picture and has you thinking, “Maybe there’s more to this film than your average alien invasion movie.” And that’s exactly what Arrival accomplishes.
There aren’t any 30-minute-long Michael Bay action sequences. In fact, there isn’t a battle scene at all. The characters in this film aren’t superheroes. They’re intellects. They solve all of their problems with their minds. Arrival does away with all alien movie cliches. Without giving anything away, I guarantee that this story has never been told before. Especially in the way it’s told here.
One day, 12 mysterious spacecrafts show up at different locations throughout the world. In Montana, a linguistics professor, Louise (Amy Adams), is hired to decode the aliens’ language.
The narrative is intentionally slow, but never feels long, wasting absolutely no time cutting to the chase. There are aliens and the government needs a linguist expert to help them communicate with these creatures. We’re there in less than 10 minutes. And at 116 minutes total, the movie is the perfect length. Rare of for sci-fi films these days.
To think of something never before conceived is truly remarkable. And that was the task of author, Ted Chiang, who wrote the 1998 short story on which this film is based.
Giving anything away would be a disservice to those planning to watch this movie ever. And Arrival has the added benefit of not gaining Sixth Sense-level fame to the point where if you don’t watch the film in a year’s time, the plot will eventually reach mainstream pop culture common knowledge. Though it’s good enough to.
Arrival deals with abstract concepts without ever confusing the audience. Things definitely get pretty heavy, but you trust director Denis Villeneuve that everything makes sense. And it does.
Forget plot holes. The way Arrival is constructed, there’s really no room for any. At least nothing major or distracting.
Villeneuve isn’t a huge fan of levity. But don’t mistake that lack as an indicator of self-absorption or self-importance. If anything, this film is TOO important. At its core, Arrival is about empathy, expressed in a way you could never think imaginable. To say this is truly one of the most beautiful films of all time is no hyperbole at all.