Arrival is the new film from director Denis Villeneuve, the man who brought such fantastic films as Prisoners and Sicario. It I based on a short story by Ted Chiang and chronicles the attempt of a linguistics professor to decipher the language of and communicate with an alien race. And it’s perhaps the most original science fiction to come out in years.
But is Arrival a science fiction movie? It has plenty of science, it has aliens and it has large imposing spaceships. But Arrival also lacks a lot of what we might assume would be in a science fiction film nowadays, and it is these absences that make it one of the best and most interesting films to come out this year.
Unlike recent alien invasion films such as Independence Day: Resurgence, that have come out in recent years, the conflict in Arrival is not driven by guns and explosions. In fact, most of the second half of the film is aimed at preventing the use of guns at all possible cost, and instead things are attempted to be resolved through language and communication. It is not an action movie and instead the plot unfolds logically, a wonderfully satisfying way of constructing narration. We see and feel the slow and realistic process of understanding and communicating with the aliens play out in front of us.
Like the best works of science fiction Arrival is driven by a brilliant idea that is executed wonderfully. But also, like some of the most influential and ground breaking science fiction it is filled with human emotion. At its heart Arrival is an emotive character piece and we follow Amy Adam’s linguistics expert from the start to very end of the film, seeing it almost exclusively through her eyes. As the film develops the questions and narrative arcs presented in the film’s first half (why are aliens here; what do they want; etc.) are replaced by the emotional story of Amy Adam’s character and her life, heart break and grief become the narrative thrust. It is unique ideas such as this that make Denis Villeneuve the most exciting Hollywood director currently working.
– Jamie Hutton, Music Editor