What you get with ARRIVAL is far from the typical alien invasion film. It covers the bases for what you might expect. The armed forces preparing for potential attack. The talking heads on television reporting the bits and pieces from what information they’ve gathered. The public in hysterics, thinking the world is about to come to an end.
But in ARRIVAL, almost none of that is in the forefront.
Just as with CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND did a few decades ago, ARRIVAL focuses on the efforts to communicate with the extra terrestrials instead of just assuming they’re here to blow things up. Amy Adams is front and center as a linguistics expert who is recruited to determine if it’s possible to understand their language and possibly teach them ours. Jeremy Renner plays second fiddle as some sort of super smart science guy whose expertise is also being tapped to better understand the invaders.
It’s definitely a movie that most people will probably have to watch twice to fully appreciate. I’ve only seen it once thus far, and while I’m looking forward to understanding it better with inevitable subsequent viewings, but even at this point I can see just how well-crafted it is and what a great job they’ve done with a very complicated topic.
Oh, right, I should probably mention that there’s an aspect to the film that gets somewhat complicated, but it’s also the most interesting part of the film. This isn’t just a film about aliens flying down to Earth and having humans try to communicate with them. That could be interesting enough, but they add another wrinkle to the film which helps it become an amazing film which I look forward to adding to my small movie collection of essentials.
My rating: 95 out of 100
Unless you get confused very easily or frustrated by complicated plots, you should check this out. I wouldn’t say the plot is overly complicated – it doesn’t even approach INCEPTION or MEMENTO levels – but you might not fully understand what’s going on until someone explains it to you after the film. If you fall into that category, wait until it’s on Blu-ray, because then you can watch it a second time without having to pay extra for it. This is one of my favorite sci-fi films of all time, and I gave a lot of thought to rating it this high. I don’t do that often. My hat’s off to Director Denis Villeneuve, screenwriter Eric Heisserer and the book’s original author Ted Chiang. Well done.