Arrival is layered with emotional depth and a grounded/realistic sci-fi story about when first contact comes to us. Arrival isn’t for the small-minded or those with little attention spans. It’s a slow movie that thrives off of build-ups and pay-offs. But for those who enjoy movies where you need to put some thought into perception, known as the thinking-man’s/woman’s Sci-Fi, you’ll exit the theater in bewilderment and wonder. A film that is more than competent in direction, acting, sound design, and story. Arrival is not only a superb adaptation, but it’s something that has stood with me, that I have comprehended yet yearn more for. The engrossing soundtrack, the beautiful shot selection, a supreme performance from Amy Adams, and a story that should turn heads and elicit emotion.
As far as an adaptation goes, Arrival hits it out of the park. Extrapolating nearly two hours out of a short story can get muddled. This is something that Arrival avoids completely, focusing most of the attention on communicating with the aliens. An immense gravity of the situation is palpable throughout the opening of the movie. It treats the idea of first contact as a major world event; which it very well would be. Liberal and conservative points of view clash in how the situation should be handled, riots occur, it’s something that divides the world. You can feel the seriousness that’s established in the opening, it is shown and not told. Arrival succeeds in expert build-up that’s seeded throughout the duration of the run time.
One of two minimal faults is that the movie is slow and that Forest Whittaker doesn’t have too great of a role especially with such acting prowess. However, a slow paced movie isn’t a bad thing, it just limits the audience appeal. With an open mind and patience this movie treats its viewers to a wonderful experience with a spectrum of emotions. As the film crescendos we experiences more and more moments of marvel. This all leads to the first meeting between our protagonists and the visitors. Arrival does an excellent job of creating an aethstetic atmosphere. There’s an uneasiness that looms over the entire situation, a desperate time frame where there’s not much room for error, and the aliens themselves encapsulate elements of wonder, terror, and intrigue.
These factors of wonder, terror, and intrigue are amplified by the soundtrack that expertly lingers when appropriate. Johann Johannsen (Sicario) has outdone his previous efforts and made for another exquisite orchestral effort. Booming bass and creaks echo in the ominous space of the alien aircraft while violins cover the more human and relatable moments. The score compliments the atmosphere of the film through every turn the movie makes. Director Denis Villeneuve does a great job making each scene eloquently flow from one moment to the next. The cinematography has gorgeous shots that show scale of the ship to our environment, and put great contrast from dark to light color palettes and matches them with the appropriate scenes.
Story is the key to this film as there isn’t too much action. Dialogue and logic take front seat to a realistic sci-fi that really is all about communication. I thought Jeremy Renner did a fine job, but the real star here is Amy Adams. It’s about how well she carries the emotional weight throughout this movie. Without revealing too much, the story is what kept me glued. Interwoven, story was celebrated by so many other supreme elements such as the cinematography, soundtrack, and acting. Arrival is the movie that will resonate with you for quite some time, it warrants multiple viewings, and it keeps you enthralled no matter what rate the movie progresses at. For this, it is the best movie of 2016 as of speaking.