After making two of the best films of the decade—Prisoners and Sicario, director Denis Villeneuve transitions to the realm of science fiction. It’s the kind of science fiction that doesn’t rely on action sequences, but rather on words and ideas.
Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguistics professor whose lecture is interrupted by news coverage of twelve alien pods hovering in different locations around the world. She is accepted by Colonel GT Weber (Forest Whitaker) to go to a site in Montana where one of the pods is located. As the leader of a group of including theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise tries everything to communicate with the aliens. The closer she gets to solve the mystery, the closer the other nations are to a war.
Like with his two previous films, Villeneuve gives the power of what filmmaking is all about. Something that shakes us to the very core. Something that is realistic. Something that can be discussed about for years. While it can be compared to other sci-fi movies such as Signs or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Arrival is more than just your usual alien invasion flick. It asks questions such as: Who and what are these beings? Why are they here? Do they pose as a threat to humanity, or otherwise?
What’s part of the film’s brilliance is it’s entirely grounded in the realm of the need to communicate. Thanks to a miraculous screenplay by Eric Heisserer, it makes the audience try to solve the puzzle for themselves, while, thanks to the Villeneuve’s smooth direction, absorbing them into the mystery and the majestic beauty of Bradford Young’s cinematography provided by Johann Johannsson’s angelic score. While it doesn’t move at a fast pace, it takes its time to develop questions and makes us wonder the outcome.
Amy Adams’ Louise is so compassionate and persevered that she can do anything to connect with the aliens rather than start a fight with them (I’ll be glad if she gets some Oscar recognition for this movie). Providing enough wit and charisma from Renner and Whitaker, they are also the heart and soul of this devastatingly powerful film.
Arrival is what Interstellar should have been. A rich, thought-provoking, mind-bending experience that has absolutely no time for any B.S. One of the year’s best!