Monday, November 21, 2016

Speaks Reviews: Arrival

The best science fiction is that which makes us think, not simply in a mind-blowing sort of way but in a way that connects us to our humanity. The greatest science fiction does both.

Director Denis Villeneuve's latest film, Arrival, his fourth critical success in as many years, is one of those, a thoughtful film about humanity and the human mind that is often mind-blowing.

Amy Adams stars as Dr. Louise Banks, a lonely linguistics expert and college professor chosen by the U.S. government to attempt communication with an advanced alien species known as Heptapods. They arrived in crafts, 12 of them, randomly placed in 12 different countries around the globe. Every so often, they open their doors to allow teams of scientists and military personnel to attempt to communicate. The simple question is not as simple as you might think:  What is your purpose on Earth?

Under the command of Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) and a federal agent named Halpern (Micheal Stuhlbarg), Louise is teamed with Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist played by Jeremy Renner, to proceed through the slow process of contact, language acquisition, and eventual communication with an alien race far more advanced than humans, yet allied through a web of time.

To give anymore away would be to ruin the experience of this film. It should be seen knowing nothing more than what has already been mentioned. The only thing more worth noting is that this film is based on an award-winning short story by Ted Chiang called "The Story of Your Life," which takes ideas from actual linguistic theory as well as the science fiction of greats like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Philip K. Dick.

With Arrival, the French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve continues to prove a master of his craft. Working with director of photography Bradford Young and editor Joe Walker, he creates a mood of constant, but slowly-building, suspense. Young's camera moves are slow and calculated, not a single shot wasted, showing the audience exactly what it needs to see, yet constantly toying with our perception with both practical in-camera effects (ie., focus shifts) and, to a lesser degree, brilliant uses of CGI. Likewise, Walker's editing is precise, revealing the developments of Eric Heisserer's brilliant screenplay in slow waves as we come to understand the nature of the film in lockstep with its heroine, Louise.

As Louise, Amy Adams delivers another solid performance in a career full of them. Here she plays a character in full command of her expertise but riddled with an underlying pain behind her eyes, the pain of remembering her daughter, who died as a teenager, mixed with a desire to reach an understanding of something nearly impossible to grasp. The latter desire is most certainly matched (and her load lightened) by Jeremy Renner's Ian, who provides a confidence Louise initially lacks. Renner also works to bring in small touches of sarcasm, humor to an otherwise serious picture.

Much like last year's The Martian and 2014's Interstellar, here is a film that believes in the power and importance of science. We sense the giddiness of the films heroine and her partner as they make discoveries, figure things out, fearlessly face their alien counterparts for the sake of advancing their societies. These are films that wish to encourage us to continue our endeavors, our progress, while the real world we live in outside of the movies seems bent on going backwards.

Arrival is, above all, a smart movie, following in the footsteps of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Robert Zemeckis' Contact in that it seeks to offer ideas instead of mindless action. Here are films populated with people seeking some knowledge about themselves, about humanity, trusting in the alien visitors as seeking the same. These aliens aren't hell bent on destruction. They simply desire a mutual understanding between their race and the human race as a whole. They challenge us to reconsider how we think about our connections to time, place, and, above all, our connections to each other.

They force us to ask: What is OUR purpose on Earth? Do we even understand our own humanity? How can we if we don't even understand each other beyond the borders of our own countries? 



Girl Week 2016...Hosted by Wendell over at Dell on Movies...in which we salute the great leading ladies of cinema....

Here's to Amy Adams!! You are perennially one of our finest.
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Bottom Line

See this movie on the biggest screen you can find. It will suck you right in and not let up. It will do that without constant noise and explosions. It will do it by tapping into your intelligence, your emotions, your understanding of you.

This is easily one of the best movies of the year.

★★★ 1/2 out of ★★★






16 comments:

  1. "while the real world we live in outside of the movies seems bent on going backwards."

    Amen to that. Moving on...

    I hope to see Arrival this weekend. I'm really excited about it because I have heard nothing but great things about it. Thanks again for entering!

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    1. Lol. I had to throw a jab in there, man. Jeez! What is this world we live in...

      Can't wait to hear your thoughts on this. I can't imagine anyone not begin blown away by it.

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  2. It makes me so happy seeing everyone watch and review Arrival. I think my family and friends are fed up of me raving about it. Easily my favourite of the year, I don't think even Rogue One could top it. I love a movie that makes me think so much afterwards. Great review Kevin :)
    - Allie

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    1. Thanks. It really is that kind of movie. I've been recommending it to everyone.

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  3. Amazing review.

    I was stunned by this one. I consider it to be one of the best sci-fi films ever made. My friend, who I saw it with, considers it be one of the greatest films ever.

    The last 20 minutes of it were so mind-blowing. Everything worked perfectly here. It's definitely one of the 10 best films of the year, in my opinion.

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    1. Thanks. It is certainly in the conversation with some of the best sci-fi think flicks.

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  4. Great review! (and love your new banner) I adored this film too. Easily one of my favorites.

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  5. This sounds like an intelligent science fiction film where the aliens are not trying to destroy us and blow up all the big landmarks around the earth. I do want to see this for sure.

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  6. Bravo review, buddy. Love that you were able to say so much without spoiling anything (unlike myself)...this really is a film better left to going in blind. Adams...UGH, how excellent was she here...just aces!

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    1. Thanks, man. It was really hard to not spoil. That's why this review is a few hundred words shorter than my usual. She really was great. No doubt.

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  7. I just skimmed the review since I haven't seen this yet. I know it's been getting good reviews and is doing well but since I usually can't take much of Amy Adams I'm not sure it's one I'll be seeing any time soon.

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    1. I highly recommend for all the rest of its greatness outside of Amy Adams, though she knocks it out of the park here. I have to ask...do you like any modern leading ladies? You seem to not care for quite a few of them.

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  8. I only skimmed this one because I have yet to see the movie it only played for two weeks here and it looks so good!

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    1. That sucks majorly. What happened over there, man? Hope you can get to it soon.

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