Written by: Daniel McDonald
Ok, before I begin I will gladly let the audience know, I ADORE Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner! I’ve watched their progress from earlier projects like Drop Dead Gorgeous (Her) and Dahmer (Him). From the start I found each of them talented, technically creative (ability to physically, vocally capture subtle nuances or challenging melodramatic demands of any role they’re assigned), physically and charismatically very adept, with the ability to suss out levels and depth, pretty much everything a star needs to succeed.
I’ve just returned from a sneak peek preview of their new, highly touted SciFy film, Arrival. Now the advance buzz and actual reviews got this film what I like to call “stupid- good” attention. Other films that received the “S. G.” observation by me were It Follows and especially The Witch. By the S.G. label, I’m speaking of films that studio promotional drum-banging and gushing “I’ve found a real gem… me, me, MEEE” by critics literally leave a film unable to do anything, but disappoint.
Arrival is an unusual mixture of Sci-Fi, drama, mystery and small touches of comedy. Phenom director Denis Villeneuve (known for his previous projects Incendies, Prisoners and the excellent, highly praised hit Sicario) working from a script by Eric Heiserer (and uncredited Ted Chiang, author of the story The Story of Your Life, source material for the project) have left us with something memorable.
In the overly-edited, beautifully shot, image laden opening we meet Dr. Louise Banks (an award worthy Amy Adams), a master linguist who seems to have several issues, emotional and disturbing. We’re not quite sure of solid information to accompany and perhaps explain the fascinating series of images and relationships Louise is experiencing. I need to take a moment to advise you, Addicted to Horror Movies is in the business of giving readers information about films, but not any type of spoiler situations if we can possibly avoid it.
This particular film is filled with twists and reversals that too much information given not only could, but surely would impact quality viewing pleasure.
When twelve enormous space crafts land in several global locations (introduced in an unusually casual manner- viewers take note, this film needs ones full attention, the complications of the author and director’s choice of storytelling is unusually cerebral and attention to details is crucial). Louise is brought on board an elite military team headed by Colonel Weber (a solid Forrest Whittaker), and lead military consultant Ian Donnelly (a very charismatic Jeremy Renner, wonderful as always).
Their goal is to connect with the alien beings (terrific FX courtesy of Dana Campbell, Marc Ehrens and a legion of CGI and Practical artists) figure out a means of communication, to stop a quickly forming global team of nations, ready to attack the twelve space vehicles.
To reveal any more details (and believe me there are many more details, developments and intricacies to come) would take the desired effects out of Mister Villanueva and Heisserer’s very accomplished hands. Suffice it to say, the intelligent, detail driven script is unusual and not clichéd in any way, hell this film is the polar opposite of Independence Day 1 and 2 and almost any Alien Invasion film you’ve seen.
It’s a stunningly shot (Bradford Young), unevenly edited, sometimes very confusingly uninformed, others unusually slow paced (an overwhelmed Joe Walker). A fairly typical score (Johann Johannsen), wonderful sound FX (Pierre Jules Audrey) but unfortunately, disappointing dialogue recording (Oliver Calvert) made some key exposition quite difficult to follow (and this is one film where you need all the expositional assistance you can get!).
As I said earlier, while critics are raving – in my opinion far too much, and the promotional campaign is purposely vague, allowing us to develop traditional expectations, I feel cerebrally inclined, non-traditional film fans will cheer, the majority of Sci-fi/ horror fans will leave the theater looking and feeling as confused and unsure as our heroine Miss Adams…I’m just saying.