Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams / Jeremy Renner / Forest Whitaker
Content Rating: PG 13 for brief strong language.
When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.
I didn't expect much when I sat down to watch Arrival. I knew Adams had received considerable praise for her performance and that the film had been an Oscar contender (coming away with Best Sound Editing) but I couldn't imagine it being anything other than an alien flick: shallow and just plain weird.
But instead, I was so surprised by what unfolded before my eyes.
The atmosphere was bleak but sharp, and mystical, and the beginning of the movie plunged straight into a mysterious tragedy. The cinematography was superb, and the visuals tender and atmospheric. The dialogue was intelligent, witty, rich in subtext, and more was said in silent glances than actual words - making the stillness a breathless crescendo of feeling and emotion. It was horrifying and fascinating at the same time, and I was sucked into the breathtaking world with my heart pounding literally the entire duration of the film.
It was expertly plotted and paced. The flashes Adams' character experienced were heartbreakingly and naturally inserted into the film's current story, and contributed effortlessly to Louise's present situation/dilemma. It wasn't for one minute boring. I was utterly seduced by the enthralling and profound story playing out on screen - so full, so whole, and leaving me complete.
Amy Adams was captivating. Her character was an unique, quietly spoken but highly intelligent heroine, trapped beneath her own demons. Adams was excellent, drawing Louise's inner battle to the surface when called for, and easily switching between a mother trying to hide her pain and a woman trapped in a vulnerable and terrifying situation. The fact that Adams did not even receive an Oscar nomination for her role as Louise just infuriates me; the film would not have been the same without her gentle, profound presence, and the fact that it's gone largely unnoticed and unrecognised is cinematically cruel.
Jeremy Renner's acting was also strong, and had nice chemistry with Adams. His character was equally well drawn, and he offered some mild but much needed comic relief.
The direction was excellent. The set-up of characters and their relationships for what was coming later in the movie was so on point it was insane; perfect foreshadowing, and perfect characterisation. For example, small things like Jeremy Renner's character not answering straight away to affirm his safety when the group enters the alien spaceship, was such an exquisitely thought-through move to further express his character's personality - and in that moment, I had such a strong sense of who he was and what he was like. It was brilliant.
Before I even remembered that the film won Best Sound Editing, I was blown away by the incredibly moving and largely acoustic musical score. Most of the film progressed without music, and that instilled such a heartfelt and mesmerising connection that I believe would have been lost otherwise. The sound of silence was stunning - as was Adams, as was the film. And when there was music in the last few minutes of the movie, it was so perfectly placed and beautiful.
This film had so much heart and so much beauty that it delivered far more than the typical sci-fi flick. When it was over, I was sobbing. It was incredible.
Arrival presented an utterly unique way to look at human relationships. I was sucked into the heartbreaking reality on screen that quite literally left me breathless. Adams was captivating, the sound editing superb, and the theme heart rendering.
My mind was blown and my heart was broken. But the film was astounding.