Arrival Movie Review
One of the smartest and refreshing movies of the year, Arrival is a well-acted, well-made sci-fi thriller that defies the conventions that have led to so many unsatisfactory offerings this year—explosions, visual effects and shallow spectacle—opting instead for strong writing and a unique, intelligent story.
Amy Adams plays an expert linguist who is brought in by the government after 12 spaceships appear over various parts of the Earth, their motives unknown. She is joined by a physicist (Jeremy Renner) to decode their language before the Earth’s nations decide their best option is to fire first.
Adams and Renner are terrific in their respective roles, with Adams delivering another award-worthy performance that transcends the movie’s sci-fi roots.
Then again, the entire movie transcends expectations.
Denis Villeneuve has quickly become a must-watch director, as his entire resume (which includes Prisoners and Sicario) is packed with quality productions. Arrival looks fantastic and the pace demonstrates Villeneuve’s capability to be patient while understanding forward momentum—Arrival grabs hold of you and never lets go, despite the director’s willingness to let the story unfold organically at the appropriate pace.
Arrival benefits greatly from the score by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. As he did with Prisoners and Sicario, the score really elevates the movie to another level—it’s moody, intense and captivating.
And finally, the screenplay by Eric Heisserer is superb. The story is fascinating, the characters intriguing. There are a few moments that could have been explained a bit better, but Arrival doesn’t need to answer all questions.
Screenplay, acting, directing, and music—all four facets fire on all cylinders. Arrival isn’t for the shock-and-awe fan—it certainly falls more in line with Jodie Foster’s Contact than Independence Day—but is a compelling, often mesmerizing thriller that isn’t afraid to be smart.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.