Arts Review, Movies
Denis Villeneuve, director
Eric Heisserer, script
Starring: Amy Adams (Louise Banks), Jeremy Renner (Ian Donnelly) , Forest Whitaker (Colonel Weber)
A film in which aliens who resemble large octopi land on earth on board 1500-meters tall spaceships sounds like a premise for a wild special f/x laden science fiction thriller. Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival has that set-up but he actually delivers a thoughtful film about language and perceptions of time. Exactly what sci-fi fans will make of Arrival is anyone’s guess but the film should appeal to intelligent art house audiences, who enjoy intellectual content and an intriguing character study.
The character in question is Louise Banks, the greatest linguist in the world. As played by Amy Adams in a riveting performance, she’s an introspective, romantic figure, by turns bold, curious and confident in her abilities. She’s possessed by what appears to be a secret sorrow, the short intense life of her daughter, whom she raised by herself.
Called into duty to deal with the aliens by U.S. Colonel Weber, Louise makes greater progress in relating to them than any of the other eleven landing points—China, Russia, Venezuela, etc.—across the Earth. For more than half of Arrival, attempts at creating a common language with the heptapods (those large octopi) and thoughts of her daughter occupy Louise—and the film. The rest—the large rocketships, various military grumblings, Skype communications with the other areas “invaded” by the aliens—feel like window dressing.
Although a thriller plot kicks in for a brief amount of time, Arrival is all about Louise and her awareness of the complexities of time, once she learns how to speak the language of the heptapods.
Arrival is a unique almost dream-like film. It’s not your typical science fiction genre pic. And Amy Adams is noteworthy as Louise Banks. Her performance and Villeneuve’s impeccable direction are the reasons to see a film that may find it hard to “talk to” an audience in the upcoming holiday season.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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