Director: Denis Villeneuve
Running Time: 116 minutes
Main Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival takes a whole new approach to tackling the Alien genre, making it both a genre breaking and expanding film.
The plot for Arrival focuses around 12 heptapods, the name given to the 12 strange objects that have landed in 12 random locations around the world. When the American Army realises that these pods are of no immediate threat, US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) decides to call upon linguist Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try make contact with the aliens and to understand why they are visiting earth. Dr Banks is joined by Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a military theoretical physicist. They begin working together to uncover what the aliens are saying, trying to understand the ink/smoke rings that the aliens omit through their tentacles. Soon they begin to establish that it’s not what they want but what they want to give which drives the narrative forward.
Eric Heisserer constructed the screenplay from the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. Heisserer and Villeneuve, who returns to the directors chair following last years drug war thriller Sicario, team up to adapt the short story onto the screen with ease. Allowing its main themes, which centre around existential conundrums, relating to life, death and the mysteries of the universe, which all correlate from the books to the screen. The film jumps between the two timelines, where we see flashes from time spent between Dr Banks and her daughter, which act as metaphors for life and death, begin and end, which are key staples of the film and to understanding the film. The combination of imagery and spoken word within the film help us, to understand the key linguistic concepts that Dr Banks is teaching the heptapods. It’s this combination, which allows us to understand what really is going on, whilst also shifting us away from the preconceived notions we have of the alien film genre. Dr Banks is not the only one who is challenged by this alien visit as we too are challenged mentally as we figure out what’s happening with the aliens and Dr Banks memories.
Adams performance is subtle, portraying Dr Banks as warm, yet reserved and believable all in one. She never seems crazy but rather she is the anchor the story needs to help us understand the story. Without her performance the film would falter. Her performance has her in an early box seat for an Oscar nod next year. Jeremy Renner wonderfully underplays Donnelly to allow all the limelight to be pointed at Adams whilst also allowing his underplayed character to back up any of Dr Banks decisions in the film, again strengthen the film. Forest Whitaker‘s performance as the US Army Colonel Weber allows his character to demand respect from his charges, Dr Banks and Donnelly, whilst also having a subtly that both Adams and Renner have brought to their characters. The small cast works well for this film, allowing the focus to be on Dr Banks, the aliens and what exactly is going on.
Villeneuve combines Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s haunting score, with Bradford Young‘s use of wide, long and close up shots compliment the aliens and the style of film Villeneuve was going for. The pace is very slow, asking you to be patient and when it finally all starts to unravel it makes for an interesting ending.
Arrival‘s slow paced, alternative approach to the alien film genre is refreshing change for the genre. Its slow pace also allows us to understand what exactly is transpiring, whilst subtle performances from all 3 mains compliments the film and adds emphasis to the themes it is trying to portray to us.
The Front Row Opinion