By Adam Ray Palmer
My third review from Venezia73 is the sci-fi drama Arrival from Prisoners and Sicario director Denis Villeneuve.
Denis’s usual dark and moody filming technique doesn’t disappoint here but what is surprising is the narrative he has chosen to adapt.
I thought I had been quite lucky with the two films I had seen before with The Light Between Oceans and La La Land, but then Arrival, erm, arrived.
Amy Adams plays the titular role as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist who works as a lecturer at a university. When a random invasion from 12 UFO-type objects (that look a lot like Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments) descend on earth, she is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications. Jeremy Renner is on hand to play Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist, to help Louise in her quest for answers.
We begin the film with a dark, yet hugely important, five-minute opening sequence. Everything that happens in this period is hugely linked to the whole film. Amy Adams’s motherhood is shown throughout the next 20 years before quickly re-joining the film pre-parenthood. Shortly after, the potato wedges-looking spaceships arrive and Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) turns up at Louise’s university to seek help.
After agreeing to come to the military’s aid, she meets Ian (Renner) in the helicopter ride that takes them to rural Montana where one of the charcoal-grey spaceships hovers slightly above the ground. The next few weeks consist of a team, including Louise and Ian, trying to teach the aliens how to communicate with humans. And once they do, they reveal what they have come for.
What I hugely admire about Denis Villeneuve, with the help of screenwriter Eric Heisserer, is the way he manipulatives the narrative and therefore the audience. He always asks two questions throughout the film, but you only realise the second question when you’ve figured out the first. In Prisoners for example, you wanted to know why the two girls have gone missing with no evidence. But just over half way through, we ask ourselves ‘is their captive the real suspect in all this?’ The same rule applies here… ‘what is the purpose of the aliens’ arrival?’ and then ‘what has Louise Banks got to do with the wider narrative?’
The way Denis shoots Arrival is no different to Prisoners or Sicario. He has become somewhat of an auteur with his melancholy style of close-ups and murky shot-taking. Arrival is very reminiscent of 2014’s Interstellar, which I loved, with a bit of Midnight Special whipped in too. The questions remain throughout the film and even maybe when the credits roll.
Amy Adams’s Louise Banks is a flustered and mystified individual yet acquires a very special skillset needed by the world. Adams’s elegant and honest portrayal really captivates the audience from start to finish. The point-of-view shots of her startled face mixed with wide shots of the vast lands is really intriguing. Louise’s sorrow in certain parts of the film is where Adams is at her strongest. She has to be one of the best actresses working today.
Jeremy Renner adds an important role to the film. Ian is a straighter kind of character who is the strength to Louise’s woes. He adds a bit of comedy to certain scenes where the film is in need of some injection of life. He plays off Amy extremely well and that would be down to the direction of Villeneuve.
Arrival is yet another movie destined to be watched a cinema. The haunting soundtrack from Jóhann Jóhannsson, who also scored Sicario, is compelling as it distantly echoes through your mind like a mild ear infection – you want to get rid of it but you just can’t. Like Interstellar, Arrival is another sci-fi masterpiece. However, it is also so much more than that. It’s a worldly film that teaches humans to learn and communicate more with each other - Arrival can be taken as very political. But still, this is surely a science-fiction film that the Academy Awards can get behind right? They sure ought to.
Cineroom’s Rating: 5 Stars
Arrival will be released in the UK on 11th November 2016 – certificate TBC