Saturday, November 12, 2016 8:00 am ·  0 Comments
Science Fiction is a genre that seems to get a bad reputation for relying on style so frequently above a dramatic narrative with a reason for being told. And every so often, we get excellent films like Arrival to prove how wrong that preconceived notion is.
It’s been a prolonged and draining slug at the the North American box office the last two months, with the last critical and commercial hit being September’s Sully nine weeks ago. This weekend brings the blockbuster hit (and deservedly so) Doctor Strange and Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s newest Hollywood success to theatres.
With both of these? The drought is done. And Arrival is leading the charge.
Villeneuve is known for great tension-machines on film like Prisoners and last year’s Sicario, though these two flounder in the shadow of how terrific Arrival is. It’s not just smarter and crisper, it engages our attention more effectively, and finds a way to make the study of language and nature interesting to an audience hungry for shallow entertainment.
The story concerns a military operation between 12 countries when a fleet of oval looking spaceships land on Earth. The largest of which lands in Montana, where Dr. Louise Banks (a gripping Amy Adams) is hired to act as a supervising linguist.
The whole story revolves around the principles of communication, and how its power is both unifying and intimidating. The reason Arrival is so much more compelling and original is that it spends the movie’s two hour time wisely exploring the abilities to communicate, without going to the cliche alien action.
If you’re looking for a Star Wars/Star Trek/Star Buddies type action blockbuster, you’ll leave very disappointed. There is intensity, action, and a scientific problem for sure. But this is drama, and science fiction as a human conflict, not an alien one.
The story is chilling, with the reality of action surprising in a smooth, enjoyable way. Instead of shocking us to make the movie more bark than bite, this is something to savour. Chew slowly and the taste of Eric Heisserer’s delicate script both grows on you and becomes richer.
The actors are so heavily focused they take all the pressure of watching the movie off your shoulders – and the question begs, how come other movies can’t be as composed and modest as this one? Large in scale but glossy in delivery, Arrival has a rare tone of brilliance and shape of great entertainment.
Leave the kids at home for this one – the aliens may freak out children, and there’s one action scene that gets heavy. This will be a pull at the Oscars in February, though there’s no feature that really stands out. It may not win any awards, but it’s definitely going to be nominated.
Earlier this week, good reason and composer seemed to crack in the United States with a certain election on Tuesday. Most of the country is still upset, and everyone is yelling hoping they get to be heard. I think Arrival comes to theatres with expert timing. Here’s a movie that reminds us why listening is more important than talking, and how unity in times of peril and disagreement will always be the bravest course of action.
That’s what the best movies do. They may not be about real life, (as is hard with seven tentacled aliens), but they show us what life really means. And they give us an example to follow when adversity arrives.
4 out of 4 Stars
PG, 117 minutes, Sci-Fi Drama.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker.
Now Playing at Cineplex Winston Churchill, and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.