In 2014, Christopher Nolan released his 9th film, Interstellar – a visually spectacular space epic and, a great time at the cinemas. The problem with Interstellar is that it isn’t all that interesting. Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, is. Here’s a movie that’s also bloody spectacular, perhaps not so much in how it looks (though, it does look beautiful), but spectacular in a way that it shatters your brain, turns you upside down and throws you in a dark, empty vacuum of nothingness. In my La La Land review, I mentioned how the audience broke into applause at the end of that movie. There was no applause at the end of this movie, only silence. And, people looking for pieces of their exploded brains.
Fair warning. Don’t waltz into Arrival expecting:
A huge alien invasion film.
There are no badass heroes, kickass action sequences and unlimited ammunition semi-automatic weapons. If you want those, then checkout the Alien franchise, the Predator franchise or heck, maybe even Chicken Little. Arrival, is quite frankly not about aliens. Sure, it does have aliens in it – only two to be exact, named Abbott and Costello – but the aliens are merely vehicles to guide you through the meat of this story. This is Denis Villeneuve’s first PG-13 feature film, but, it’s also his most profound. I would prefer not to tell you what exactly the story is about, but let’s just say it revolves around the wonders language and communication.
This is a film that takes its time to burn and build its thrills. Villeneuve is masterful here. Early on in the movie, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is seen watching TV. The camera lingers on her face. We soak in her reaction and we feel her sense of shock and disbelief, but we don’t know why she’s feeling that way, because Villeneuve chooses not to show us what she’s watching. Curiosity began to eat me from the inside and I know it wasn’t just me, because I could feel the tension in the air. Every single person in the theatre was hooked. This is a movie that suggests that the human reaction to something marvelous is just as important as the marvel itself. I agree.
A lot of movies tend to have “plot twists” for the sake of shock value. Sure, at first, you’re like “HOLY SHIT!” But two seconds later, you’re tearing your Mahatma Gandhi posters, getting ready to do violent things to the asshole director and dumbass scriptwriter, because that shit doesn’t make any fucking sense. I’m looking at you, Now You See Me 2.
In Arrival, you’ll probably only figure out what exactly everything means, at the end of the movie, whilst picking up your exploded brain particles. One minute you’re watching something, the next minute, everything flips on its head. But this isn’t the type of bullshit stunt that the aforementioned (and many other) B-grade movies tend to pull, because when you try and piece the puzzle, everything fits. There are clues and symbolism scattered all around the film. And, watching this movie a second time will provide you with a completely different experience than the first.
Lois Lane, who?
While watching Batman V Superman last year, I remember asking myself two questions. “Jesus, isn’t Amy Adams supposed to be a good actress,” and “Why is Clark Kent getting into a bathtub fully clothed?” I guess the second question is completely irrelevant – although admittedly, more interesting – to this article.
Here, Amy Adams almost erases our memories of whatever nonsense she’s doing in Batman V Superman. I say almost, because I don’t think it’s possible to completely erase the memories of her saying, “I’m not a lady, I’m a journalist.” #FEMINISM! What a load of crap. I know, the fault lies on the shoulders of Batman V Superman’s sorry excuse of a script than it does Amy Adams’. That’s not the point. The point is, she’s brilliant in Arrival. There are so many scenes in this movie in which the camera stays on her face for prolonged periods, and it requires her acting chops to build tension. Adams pulls it off every single time. This woman deserves a nod at the Oscars.
Jeremy Renner is a good actor as well. Unfortunately, Renner’s character, Ian Donnelly, is a complete waste of space. Sure, it can be argued that the character does serve a purpose to the larger picture, but by not fleshing out the character at all, it feels a little forced. But this is me nit-picking. The Ian Donnelly character did not actually dampen my enjoyment of the film. I just wished scriptwriter Eric Heisserer would have handled this character slightly better.
There are a couple of very short scenes that do feel jarring, though. It involves a few soldiers who spend way too much time watching TV. These soldiers get influenced by whatever the mainstream media is saying and because of that, they go off and do something stupid. Clearly, these dumbasses didn’t checkout Denzel Washington’s interview by Washington Post.
“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read it, you’re misinformed.” – Mr. Man on Fire
What that stupid thing is, I will not spoil. But it feels completely uncharacteristic for trained military personnel to behave this way. The worst part is, the entire scene (and the consequences of the scene), lasts a whole 30 seconds. It’s completely pointless, and is included simply for cheap thrills. Which is weird, given how wonderfully penned everything that happens before and after that scene is.
Denis Villeneuve is a damn good director, and he, just like Damien Chazelle, will one day join the ranks of the Scorseses, Tarantinos and Finchers. With each movie, he gets better. In Arrival, his confidence oozes out of every frame. In a few months’ time, all eyes will be on his biggest film yet – Blade Runner 2049. This is an excellent film. I’m confident, that will be too.
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