DENIS Villeneuve brings another enjoyable piece albeit of a different nature to previous efforts with Arrival, an intriguing mix of human drama and alien invasion headlined by Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.
The piece starts with a montage featuring the young daughter of our professor heroine Louise Banks (Adams) whose life tragically is cut short from cancer. Coping with her grief, her life mainly consists of teaching linguistics at a college. During an unusually low-attended class, mobile phones persistently ring leading to the viewing of a TV report, explaining how twelve spaceships containing mysterious beings have landed in areas round the world, including a field in Monatna.
Brooks is soon visited by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) who requests her help of being part of a team whose objective is to find out the purposes of the extra-terrestrials using Brook’s knowledge of linguistics. Teaming up with her is an astrophysicist Ian Donnelly (Renner) where the two are able to communicate with the aliens, decoding symbols that the aliens respond with to their questioning.
However, as panic sets in around the globe, the team find their position of maintaining security in jeopardy as impatient nations seek to destroy the spacecraft, leaving uncertainty as to what effect it will have on mankind.
Following on from more gritty pieces like Prisoners and Sicario, Villeneuve continues to bring a thriller that for the most part entertains, headlined by reliable actors all capable of delivering solid performances. Now while this might not be as engaging as those works, this still adds as a generally effective work for the genre.
Beginning with the devastating montage depicting birth to young death, we observe a performance from Adams that is both moving and well-displayed. The scene that follows where a standard class quickly turns into an evacuation gives the same sense that a conventional disaster movie may have. Here the film is nothing like that of the sort, but the feeling of it is there. In fact, there is an admiration with the way that the film refuses to resort to cliches, especially when those inside the spacecraft appear.
Though the opening minutes suggest a genuinely entertaining piece throughout, what we are given is something that still works but at the same time, fails to give that heart-pounding suspense that may have helped improve this if it was being something unexpected.
For the rest of the film, there is a minute amount of sequences that grip and provide that type of suspense. Even when it is delivering that feel of genuine tension, it feels brief and though that does not make the film weak, it does stop it being something its potential suggested.
A lot of the time, the film focuses more on the characterisation of Louise, as she often gets plagued by memories of events from her time as a mother. In reality, this does act more as a sci-fi drama than a thriller, and it is down to Adams to carry the weight of the film because her performance is the most crucial part of the film. She is trustworthy and worthy of praise as such, yet the performance arguably peaks very early on in the film but she does enough in regards to her performance of a potential saviour of mankind.
On a rare note, we get to see aliens who are not the villainous, landmark-burning invaders we are used to seeing but instead are practically harmless individuals who appear much more sympathetic than humans occasionally seen. The alien, who goes by the nickname of Costello, might not be as cuddly as ET, but given its perceived nature, what is shown turns out to be an interesting take on the genre.
The race-against-time narrative is apparent but lacking in adrenaline. The pace is slow throughout, maybe a bit too slow, but as a result, we are given something different, with its human nature plot done in a respectful manner that still feels sufficient and useful.
The scenario that involves China in the second half is also key in helping push the film up a gear with the film potentially getting too political, but handled just carefully enough, especially with its comforting conclusion.
With the locations of the spaceships ranging from Montana, Russia, China and even Devon, there is even time for a random but likeable moment involving Donnelly theorising that the locations are connected by Sheena Easton’s presence in the 1980s.
Some people may go into this film and feel somewhat misinformed but what is shown is the polar opposite to the likes of recent alien-invasion films like Edge of Tomorrow. That is where the film wins its stripes due to the fact that the aliens are shown not really as the danger, but rather the humans in an ironic twist of fate. It is doing things differently and by acting like this, it allows us to see unusual methods not noticed in a blockbuster, to the extent that one could see this as an anti-blockbuster.
Led by another respectable performance from Amy Adams, Arrival is imperfect but smart enough to turn another potential typical alien-invasion film into something more philosophical and mostly rewarding.