Movie Review: Arrival

Details: Released in 2016. Runs for around two hours. Stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.

Arrival is a movie that relies entirely on its big reveal. It’s like The Matrix or Fight Club in that if the big reveal/ending is somehow revealed to you, watching this movie becomes infinitely less meaningful. This movie only works because of the big reveal. Accordingly, I will do my best to avoid any narrative elements and plot points in this review.

So what can I talk about? Well, this film is undoubtedly classic science fiction film. Starwars, despite arguments to the contrary, is not classic science fiction. Starwars is fantasy that takes place in space. Star Trek is science fiction as is Arrival. Classic science fiction takes thing like space travel, time travel, alternate dimensions, aliens, etc., and not only takes us on a journey to the fantastic, it is introspective. Science fiction is supposed to take a fantastic idea and use it to examine the themes of our own lives. Classic science fiction says something about the state of our existence. In the Arrival, there is not only aliens, but there is a clearly message being conveyed about the nature of our own existence. I greatly enjoyed this message or how the film tried to express it.

The premise is this: a renowned linguist is recruited to try and communicate with aliens that have landed on Earth.

The film goes into some elements of how language works, but not to deeply. I think this was the right approach and avoided the mistake Interstellar perpetrated. Most people are not experts in language or physics, so what a film should do is to lightly go into a subject, just enough to give the audience a taste but not enough to bore the audience. Arrival achieved this balance.

The cinematography is great. Some great shots of the space ships and landscapes. The film felt very epic at times.

In regards to the editing, I’ll just say that while most of it is good, some of it felt gimmicky. This film attempts and achieves something that I both appreciate and felt gimmicky to me. After seeing what was done in this film, I’m probably not going to appreciate any other films that attempt something similar for the near future.

The actors are fine. In order to convey the tone and message this film attempts, their performances needed to be a little muted. I get that. I don’t think anyone should win any Oscars for their performances though.

Score: 7.3/10 It’s hard to say whether or not I’d recommend this film. I enjoyed it, but it is a one trick pony. Once you get the reveal, you may want to watch it again to see it from a different perspective. Otherwise, it’s a one and done, kind of like Cloverfield. The entertainment value of this film lies in watching it in that first, unspoiled viewing.


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