Released Nov. 11, “Arrival” is a science-fiction film based on Ted Chiang’s short story, “Story of Your Life,” The film, directed by Denis Villenueve (Prisoners, Sicario) and starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner is an absolute triumph.
“Arrival” is one of the best movies of the year; it is a thinking person’s science fiction film in the same vein as “Interstellar,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
It is “Close Encounters” that “Arrival” shares DNA with. Both tell stories of first contact, and in particular, the scene from “Close Encounters” where the U.S. government first communicates with the Aliens through a “tonal language” seems to be the basis for much of “Arrival’s” story.
In “Close Encounters,” the Aliens are able to teach the scientists a tonal language in a matter of minutes. Those familiar with “Close Encounters” will realize by the end of “Arrival” that the film is a critique of “Close Encounters’” assumption that communication with other life forms would be simple and quick.
In “Arrival,” various alien spaceships land on Earth. Unlike “Close Encounters,” communication does not take a matter of minutes — in fact, at several points, it seems like communication between the two life forms will never become a reality. And then, when some basic contact can be made, much is lost in translation, leading to a heightening of global tension. Several governments believe the aliens (called “Heptapods”) mean to attack. The global order slowly disintegrates as the people of world and the various governments panic over the new visitors. It is up to Louise Banks (Adams), a talented linguist, to learn the alien language and stop the world from plunging into chaos.
Adams gives the performance of her life. Any specifics on her performance would spoil the movie, but she toes the line between controlled competence and tragedy in a unique way. It would not be surprising if this film racks up many awards in the months to come.
Moreover, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s (“Sicario”, “Theory of Everything”) score is a shoo-in for best score at the Academy Awards. Not only is it ethereal and eerie, but the score perfectly accompanies every scene in the film.
Any more specifics would ruin the film, but by the end, there was not a dry eye in the theater. “Arrival” is a must see, and my early pick for best picture.