Arrival review: Denis Villeneuve enters the realms of science fiction with a first-contact movie with a glittering cast, including Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.
Arrival review by Paul Heath, TIFF ’16.
Arrival comes to Toronto following an impressive debut at Venice where awards buzz fermented for Denis Villeneuve‘s latest a sci-fi marvel ambitious in approach though grounded in realism and scientific accuracy.
Amy Adams plays the lead role of Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist who is recruited by the US government – specifically Forest Whitaker’s military guy Colonel Weber – to help them decode intricate messages delivered by alien crafts that have popped up at various locations throughout the world. Banks is aided by Jeremy Renner‘s Dr. Ian Connelly who is supporting on the scientific side of things at one of the twelve craft sites in rural Montana. With constant communication between them and the other eleven sites, the duo must decipher and decode messages delivered by the extra-terrestrials – which look like a cross between and elephant and a spider – to see if the visitors come in peace or plans to attack.
As you may expect, Villeneuve’s first stab at a sci-fic epic (ahead of his forthcoming work on the Blade Runner sequel), is visually stunning and expertly crafted in every such way. The film owes more, and belongs in the same world, as films like Interstellar, Contact and Gattaca than the likes of Independence Day or any other kind of invasion sci-fi flick. Villeneuve and his writer, Eric Heisserer (a screenwriter whose last few efforts have been in the mainstream horror genre with the likes of The Thing, Final Destination and A Nightmare On Elm Street) have constructed a brainy, seemingly scientifically accurate piece of cinema that really knocks it out of the park on every level. Its not linear-style and jump-back-and-forth structure works wonderfully – the plot wrapped up perfectly during its climactic scenes.
Adams is never better at the film’s tormented lead – another example of someone suffering loss – a constant theme at this year’s selection of films at TIFF. In a potential awards grabber the actress down plays her role of a tortured individual suffering from her own personal demons while at the same time sacrificing every ounce of her self-interests by attempting to do the greater good. Renner provides the polar-opposite, a confident and more personable being with equal drive and commitment. There’s also firm support from the likes of Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg (as the really rather rude CIA operative Agent Halpern ) in the supporting roles, though both don’t get enough screen time to truly develop their respective characters.
Those expected gung-ho heroics with a save the world mentality will be severely let down – this isn’t that movie – but what Arrival does have is depth, a cracking story and well structured screenplay all executed to perfection by its players and creative team. Independence Day: Resurgence really is but a distant memory – an ambitious, almost art-house, sci-fi epic with mainstream accessibility – and, above all, a wonderful compelling watch.
Arrival review by Paul Heath, Toronto International Film Festival 2016.
Arrival will be released in UK cinemas on 11th November 2016.