The Arrival is the intelligent person’s alien invasion film. Light on explosions but heavy in emotion and exposition, it’s a movie I enjoyed, that I expect to win awards, but have a hard time recommending.
Directed by Sicario helmer Denis Villeneuve and starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, The Arrival opens with a montage of scenes that slowly reveal Amy Adam’s linguist professor character Dr. Banks recently lost her daughter to a terminal illness. As she’s apparently coming to grips with that, aliens make first contact. Landing on Earth with 12 ships in 12 countries around the globe, she’s selected by the American government to attempt to learn the alien’s language and make intelligent contact with them, to determine the all-important answer to the question “Why are you here?”
Hawkeye co-stars as Ian Connelly the theoretical physicist, and Ghost Dog plays the usual military mid-level manager tasked with keeping the civvies on-track. Of course, not all the world’s governments want to share information about the visitors or even play along at all. And naturally, everyone is worried about what might happen if this extraterrestrial visit turns out to have a sinister motive.
And that’s really all I can say. The film has some interesting twists and turns in the third act, as Banks figures out why the aliens are here and how to stop the conflict that arises from that revelation. To talk about this movie’s particular Deus Ex Machina would be to ruin it. Yet, it’s that unique plot device that brought me down at the end. It’s sort of the same problem I had with the recent Marvel film House: Magical Doctor; once you let a character eclipse a certain level of power their choices stop mattering and all danger and consequence drops away. The Arrival attempts to combat that by making one particular choice matter most of all, and it’s here that it falters for me. Yet, this is the same polarizing decision that’s going to bring the awards. Bank’s final choice wants to come off as profound, and I understand that, but it just didn’t work for me.
For an intimate movie mostly about the intricate nature of language, The Arrival is smart and captivating through most of its run time. Yet for a movie so smart, it loses its brain after a particular sci-fi trope is introduced, and for me, it was downhill from there. Still entertaining, yet doesn’t quite reach the heights it attempts. [easyreview title= "Review of The Arrival" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.5" overall= false]