Arrival is a science-fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve, with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, which is adapted from Ted Chiang’s award-winning short story and novella “Story of Your Life.” The film follows a team that is put together to investigate when multiple mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe. As the world scrambles for answers, mankind comes ever closer to global war. In order to find those answers, language expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams), physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) take a chance that could threaten their lives, and, quite possibly, humanity.
Back in August, I ranked Arrival as the No. 1 film I was anticipating for the fall film season, and that hype was well worth it—Arrival is one of my favorite science-fiction movies of all time. The reason I was looking forward to the film so much a few months ago was the director, Denis Villeneuve. After making a series of critically acclaimed foreign language films (such as Maelström and Incendies), Villeneuve broke into mainstream Hollywood with Prisoners, an emotionally disturbing and suspenseful film starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. I was a big fan of Prisoners, but Villeneuve impressed me even more in 2015 with Sicario, a gripping thriller about the viciousness of drug cartels starring Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro. However, in Arrival, Villeneuve is at his very best.
Aside from exhilarating visuals and riveting drama, Arrival succeeds because Villeneuve and screenwriter Heisserer have mastered the art of science fiction. If Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan were to birth a cinematic love child, Arrival would be that progeny. The film taps into the best parts of the legendary Scott’s Alien, Blade Runner, and The Martian, while also channeling Nolan’s renowned mind-fuck films like Memento, Inception, and Interstellar. Needless to say, Arrival is an epic adventure about space and time, life, communication, and love, and it finds itself in my Top 3 films of the year because it just may be the single best out-and-out sci-fi film of the past decade! If you are skeptical of science-fiction movies (like me) and need a film to help restore your faith in the genre, Arrival is absolutely a must-watch.
In supporting roles, former Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner and former Oscar winner Forest Whitaker are serviceable—the two illustrious stars always bring an immense amount of talent to their projects, and nothing changes in Arrival. The leading performance by Amy Adams, though, is noteworthy and exquisite—in fact, I think the single biggest Oscar snub this year was Adams missing out on a Best Actress nod. The 42-year-old star is one of my favorite actresses in film, and she is at her finest in Arrival. As the linguist Dr. Louise Banks, Adams portrays her character as quiet, but confident, and above all, indomitable. Adams’s performance is both emotionally moving and dignified, and it is a shame the Academy chose not to recognize her brilliant abilities this year. Arrival is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Arrival trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFMo3UJ4B4g&t=2s
Academy Award nominations for Arrival:
Best Picture (Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder, and David Linde)
Best Director (Denis Villeneuve)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Heisserer)
Best Sound Editing (Sylvain Bellemare)
Best Sound Mixing (Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye)
Best Production Design (Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte)
Best Cinematography (Bradford Young)
Best Film Editing (Joe Walker)
Previous movies on the countdown of my Top 10 Films of 2016:
- O.J.: Made in America
- La La Land
- Nocturnal Animals