Arrival is a science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve. The film focuses on a linguist, played by Amy Adams, who trys to communicate with aliens who have landed in Montana. If you have seen any of Villeneuve’s other films, like Sicario, Enemy or Prisoners, then you know that he directs movies that really put your brain to work. His films are extremely intelligent and this one is no exception.
Without talking about the plot too much, there is a recurring element that is featured throughout the whole film, but halfway through Villeneuve changes the way you think about that certain plot element. Compare it to the entirety of David Lynch’s Mullholland Dr. The film progresses in a certain way and then halfway through it is completely shifted into something contrary to what you thought. This film does something similar, but it plays with things that you think you understand and really gets you to think about it more.
This isn’t a typical movie. It isn’t Transformers. You cannot expect to go into the theater and turn your brain off for this movie. This film requires you to work in order to appreciate it, and that doesn’t appeal to everyone. That isn’t inherently good or bad, but it is something different for the typical moviegoer. Sadly, not many films are smart nowadays. Not many films make you think. There aren’t many filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, auteurs who make intellectual and philosophical masterpieces disguised as movies.
One great thing about this movie that really allows it to function properly is Amy Adams’ performance. Looking at her career as a whole, Adams could be considered an average actress, with not many noteworthy or exceptional roles. But she really holds her own in this movie. She’s believable as this character. One thing that pushes her performance is the little detail that she focuses on in her actions. You can see her thinking through problems that she faces and you can see her figuring things out organically rather than a typical movie deus ex machina cheat where someone tells the character everything she needs to know. It all felt very real, as strange as that may sound in a movie about aliens.
Honestly, one of the best things about this movie is how real it feels. Despite the weird elements of the story, it all feels very real. People react in an organic way that you can believe. It isn’t some big action film like War of the Worlds, but instead it is an introspective look at our own reality and how it functions. This is a very good, well-made film that deserves to be seen by all, and then, after some time to process the information in the film, discuss with friends and colleagues.