Amy Adams could get her sixth Oscar nomination for “Arrival”, and it would be well-deserved. I’m not convinced she can actually finally win this time around, but I’m in her corner, so far. This may be her career-best work, in a decidedly unconventional science fiction film. Oh, there’s this too…”Arrival” is one of the best movies of 2016. So, that helps. HOWEVER, I believe your key to full enjoyment of this motion picture, is in admitting how grounded you prefer your cinema experience. Want everything cut and dried? Maybe you should skip this then. Enjoy the esoteric, the puzzle, the Rubik’s Cube? Then…enter.
Dr. Louise Banks (Ms. Adams) is a renowned linguistics professor, living alone on a lakefront property, estranged from her husband, and after losing her teenage daughter to a rare disease. When a dozen gigantic alien spacecraft enter Earth’s atmosphere, in different locations all over the globe, Dr. Banks is summoned to the state of Montana by the government, in order to attempt to decipher the visitor’s language. Astrophysicist Ian Donnelly (consistently solid, Jeremy Renner) is called in to assist Louise. They enter the ship with a team. The occupants reach out to communicate. And Dr. Banks learns far more than she expected. About herself.
This is the kind of work that leads you to a place, supplies you with confidence in where you are…but then has you questioning where you’ve been, as well as where you’re going. I eat that stuff up. So, let that serve as a rave…but also a warning. “Arrival” homages a number of the best alien encounter films, but it also reminded me a great deal of Terence Malick’s “The Tree of Life”. There’s another indicator…”The Tree of Life” was my favorite 2011 film. This is an extremely patient and intelligent film, that’s melancholy throughout and completely enrapturing. The aliens are superbly done, as is the language created for them. “Arrival” is easily Denis Villeneuve’s finest work as an English-language director (“Prisoners”, “Sicario”). Mysterious and thrilling, “Arrival” has a marvelous screenplay from Eric Heisserer, that’s based on the short story ‘Story of Your Life’, by Ted Chiang. Its exceptional cast includes Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Tzi Ma. “Arrival” has tremendous scope. And it’s also a tremendous movie.