I’ve sat on this review for about a week now because I just cannot decide if I like this movie or not. It’s got good parts, it’s got bad parts, and it’s got a whole lot of nothing parts that do nothing either way.
Arrival is a reference to twelve egg like space craft that landed around Earth in seemingly no discernible pattern. Inside, two squid-like aliens attempt to communicate with humans from behind a smoky partition.
Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is the talented linguist the US government hires to figure out a way of communicating with the aliens. Day after day she must go into the pod and attempt to talk with begins that neither share our language nor our physiology. But the world grows impatient with the speed of results. Suspicions and tensions rise. And the question of communication comes down to, should we destroy them before they destroy us?
Arrival has been described as a thinking man’s sci-fi. Apparently, that means that there’s no big blockbuster set pieces. Sci-fi’s with a twist are nothing new. But Arrival’s twist is at least fresh. I didn’t see it coming. But it really was only a nice cherry on a mediocre pie.
The good stuff: Amy Adams acts her face off. But she’s a generally decent actress so no surprises there. The cinematography is beautiful. Long shots, open landscapes, walking with characters through most of the base. Beautiful stuff that really added to the ambiance of the film. I felt like I was there.
The bad stuff: some guy fell asleep before the movie started and snored for about half of it. What a cunt. Jeremy Renner is just awful for some reason. I can’t pinpoint it. About halfway through he just starts narrating! A thinking man’s sci-fi doesn’t need anything but brief text narration at the front of the film. Don’t tell me everything, show me! The film just gradually gets more boring, even as the stakes are raised. All the tension of characters realizing their world has been lovecrafted just goes away as the movie becomes another thriller.
It’s a film school kind of film. Technically impressive. But the story lacks beyond the original conceit. I was quite interested in organically learning about the aliens and their language, but then Renner facetimed me to explain it during the film. Total buzzkill.
2 out of 4 stars.