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Fellow Montrealer Denis Villeneuve is making quite the name for himself. PRISONERS, ENEMY, SICARIO, BLADE RUNNER II in the wings and now ARRIVAL. Say what you will about the man’s work; at least he takes chances and strives further than the cookie-cutter candy we usually get from Hollywood. At first glance ARRIVAL may seem like just another alien crash earth opus (it did to me); hence you can imagine my surprise (Yeah imagine it, I said... imagine it dammit!) when I finally sat down to watch the thing and realized that it was first and foremost a drama; one that used its Sci-Fi elements to take a closer look at the oh so flawed and human condition and the potential it has.
The set up for ARRIVAL was familiar, but the moment our heroes entered the spacecraft, what was gunned wound up being way more introspective than I had anticipated. Granted, as per most alien drop down movies, ARRIVAL put a mirror at us humans, and the reflection had some ugly being that there’s always somebody that just wants to blow them the F up. Yes the whole “we fear what we don’t understand and turn that fear into aggression” angle was addressed once again here. We’re such a flawed species its stupid. I see that ailment every day on the news via aggression done in the name of racial or spiritual differences. For all the technology that we have, we seem to be regressing as opposed to evolving. But I digress. Getting away from myself here. Back to the film! ARRIVAL was also a picture that covered humanity’s need for “communication”, the purity of love and the action/reaction in terms of the choices that we make (well, that’s what I got out of it anyways). All of that made for a heavy sit down and the sly way that Villeneuve communicated his chain of events definitely took me by surprise. As the end credits rolled I had a big “Ahhhhhh, I get it” expression on my dumbfounded face. I also had tears in my eyes, but we don't have to share that...
Although Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker were solid as always in their roles, this was Amy Adams show through and through with the lovely red headed lass carrying the film admirably on her slim shoulders. You know what I like about Amy Adams? She comes off as a real woman. No Botox overload on that face, she’s a natural beauty that is aging gracefully, and more importantly she’s a sturdy actress, one that I always thought wasn’t esteemed enough. I hope that this multi layered, intense and emotionally charged performance will finally get her the respect that she deserves. Couple all of that with Villeneuve’s powerful visuals lending the topic the weight that it needed (loved his use of wide shots and slow push-ins), an overall eerie yet grounded mood with top notch camera work (props to director of photography Bradford Young), a distinctive score by Jóhann Jóhannsson that backed the imagery at hand ideally (on that, it was Max Ritcher’s piece On The Nature Of Daylight that broke my heart), stellar visual effects/designs and a finale that had my one brain cell working in overtime and you get a mature, thought provoking and gripping Sci-Fi flick that has more to say than Kaboom and die!
If I had any negatives to spew it would be that 1- I felt that some of the unraveling became a tad redundant during the middle act, I could have done without Villeneuve’s swift visual homage to his Spider gag in Enemy and there were minor pacing issues; but those weren’t big deals. Once ARRIVAL was over, I came out of the theater touched and in a self-reflecting mood. I can’t say too many Sci-Fi flicks have done that now of late. KUDOS!