Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forrest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg
Modern science fiction film-making, for the most part, has become little more than backdrops for action films in recent years.
Nothing wrong with that of course; I enjoy space battles, talking raccoons and lightsabers as much as the next red-blooded film-goer but somewhere along the line science fiction film forgot its more grounded, human roots outside of fantasy.
(Btw HYPE! HYPE! HYYYYPE!)
Sci-fi used to be well, more science-y and delved into explorations of humanity and existentialism through this medium. For Denis Villeneuve’s newest film, not only does it pay homage to more traditional views of science fiction but re-invents it’s views on humanity in the complicated, often violent, world we live in today.
“Arrival” tells the story of linguist Louise Banks who is conscripted into a military operation when strange alien ships arrive on Earth. She alongside astro-physicist Ian Donelly are tasked to go into the alien ship to decipher their language and figure out why they have come to their planet. As tensions rise from countries around the world, Louise and Ian must work quickly to understand the aliens before things get out of control.
A typical science fiction trope in movies is only when an alien invasion force comes to Earth to wipe out humanity do the people of Earth finally decide to set aside their petty differences and unite against a common enemy.
From “Earth vs the Flying Saucers” to “Independence Day,” the common theme of these stories is only when a much larger threat looms humanity will start working together.
While the idea is uplifting in its own way, humanity rising as one to fight back destruction together, it’s also pretty negative. Why is it that we can only cooperate when doom is looking at us in the face? Why does it have to be a common enemy that gets us to hug each other finally?
(In Warhammer 40k humanity unites against the common enemy of aliens, monsters and space demons and plunges humanity into a perpetual state of war for many, many millennia with Earth being ruled by ultra, crazy, religious zealots who persecute anyone who doesn’t fall in line calling them heretics. You know, positive…)
“Arrival” turns this negative theme on its head and instead asks us “What if we united for good? What if we decided to come together for knowledge? What if our enemies were not our enemies?”
The aliens in “Arrival” represent this positive view on life as SPOILER they are actually not here to destroy humanity but to help them become greater.
(”You sure you’re not going to use that to lay eggs in my stomach, Mr. Alien?”)
Amy Adams’ character Louise, as well as Jeremy Renner’s Ian represent this great hope for humanity that instead of jumping to conclusions about our enemies, you actually talk to them instead and understand who they are and what they are about (This applies to everyone btw, left and right).
Adams and Renner are great together and believable scientists in this very science heavy story. They exude that positive curiosity we should all have more for the unknown. They approach the aliens in this film with caution at first but eventually warm up to them as they communicate more and more with them. It’s great to watch and once again delivers a very positive theme to the audience.
Besides the wonderful story-telling, “Arrival” is also one of the best directed films of the year too. Denis Villeneuve who directed the immensely underappreciated and much darker “Sicario” last year, wonderfully constructs this film with breath-taking cinematography that appropriately grasps the scope and scale both physically and emotionally of these scenes with the aliens. Alongside composer Johann Johannsson, who also did a tremendously dark and powerful score in “Sicario,” bring together the humanity, scientific curiosity and existentialism that the film exudes. Max Richter who orchestrates the film’s main musical theme also captures this essence and ultimate messages of the film’s big reveal.
(I’m not crying, you’re crying…)
If this film has proven anything it’s that Denis Villeneuve is officially a must watch in Hollywood and that his films should be on everyone’s radar from here on out.
In a year that has seen much destruction, sadness, anger, bitterness and pure hate, “Arrival” is the bittersweet antidote to its viewers saying “Why can’t we unite for good instead of hatred for others? Why can’t we be better now?”
Until that day comes, let’s all just try to be a little nicer to each other, okay?
5 out of 5
Go watch it, friends!