When aliens touch down in 12 locations across earth, the race is on to understand their intentions. Unlike the common trope of aliens communicating through telepathy or an innate understanding of our planets languages, Arrival focuses on dismantling the communication barrier, and whether our visitors are friend or foe.
Amy Adams leads as linguistics professor Louise Banks in Denis Villeneuve’s expansive vision of short story Story of Your Life. Spun across two keys times in Banks’ life, the action, such that it is, centres on the present day challenge of learning to converse with the septapod extra-terrestrials. The script self-consciously avoids using the word ‘aliens’, save for one wry nod from Banks as she’s about to meet them for the first time.
Banks is not working alone. By her side is physicist Ian Donnelly (played with understatement by Jeremy Renner), and across the world eleven other teams are trying to comprehend the situation. Initial attempts for foreign governments to work together fracture, society begins to collapse in the face of the uncertainty, governments turn insular in the face of beings they don’t understand. Sound familiar?
Arrival is an exceptionally accomplished piece of sci-fi storytelling, something to put lovers of Blade Runner as ease, as Villeneuve is in the director’s chair for the hotly anticipated sequel. His genre literacy with nods to Contact and Brief Encounters of the Third Kind are loudest during the score and sound design which especially recall Encounters, all deep bass and resonating tones of grinding granite, perfectly in keeping with the visitors’ monolithic vehicles.
2016 has been a decent year for popcorn munchers, and Arrival makes a late, and strong claim to Yalla’s movie of the year.
An almost flawless 5/5