Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours
Despite all the mindless action and sex that hits the big screen every year, every once in a while there comes a film that’s a little more . . . cerebral. Arrival (2016) certainly fits this category. Not only do you really have to pay attention to what’s happening in this film, it makes you question how we perceive our world as it is right now. Never before have I seen the topic of encountering alien life forms approached from such a realistic and logical way. It makes sense that we wouldn’t be able to understand them, so the first step in establishing an understanding is to establish communication.
Much like Christopher Nolan, who has done a number of great, “cerebral” films including Memento (2000), Inception (2010), and Interstellar (2014), I have recently come to appreciate the directorial talents of Denis Villeneuve. From his previous films like Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), I’ve seen him deliver powerful messages about who we are as humans and how we deal with evil. In Arrival, once again the enemy is humanity itself, and the angry and violent mistrust it has against anything it doesn’t understand. Fortunately, despite its repeated visual motif of black and white, Arrival shows that peace can be found in the gray area of language interpretation.
While I don’t want to give away the twist of this film, I have to say that the way it was presented certainly makes for a powerful impact once it has been realized. I will simply attribute this to the talent of Denis Villeneuve and the superb screenplay used to guide the audience along to the stunning conclusion. If you haven’t seen any of Villeneuve’s films yet, now’s a great time to start. I certainly will look forward to his next piece, if this is the type of work he’s putting out right now.
A fantastic, cerebral, and realistic approach to a classic sci-fi scenario, I give Arrival 5.0 stars out of 5.