After my viewing of “Arrival,” I have a message to the people behind some of the worst Sci-Fi movies of the new decade (Roland Emmerich-creator of “Independence Day: Resurgence”-and the Wachowskis-creators of “Jupiter Ascending”): “Now that’s a Sci-Fi movie.”
“Arrival” is the smartest, best looking, and best acted Sci-Fi movie I’ve seen all year long. It doesn’t rely on wall-to-wall CGI effects or poor character development; it is the exact opposite of that. The main characters are studied, the aliens (heptapods) are visually stunning, and the language studying is intelligent. This was all crafted by the same director, who gave Hugh Jackman anger and precision in “Prisoners” and represented the violence of drug cartels in “Sicario.” And that man is none other than Denis Vileneuve.
Amy Adams gives one of her best performances as linguist Louise Banks, who wonders if her story has a beginning or end, after the passing of her young daughter, and the arrival of ships, who levitate in various countries around the globe. Both she and mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner-Adams’ “American Hustle” co-star) are recruited by Colonel Webber (Forrest Whitaker) to come to the military base camp, and arrive on one of the spacecrafts to study their language. Louise manages to crack their codes, even if it means reflecting on her daughter’s childhood, and learns that China and a few other countries are prompting to wage war against the aliens.
Many critics compare this film to Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and they are right to do so. Both these films have the kind of narrative, characters, and aliens that most Sci-Fi movies these days try to craft. There have been exceptions like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or the “Star Trek” reboots, but “Arrival” gives the finger to “Independence Day: Resurgence” and “Jupiter Ascending.” There is absolutely nothing boring and generic about this picture.
Adams continues to transcend from one genre to the next, and her role here is perfect. Renner (without the bow and arrow) amazes you as the mathematician, and you will be surprised about his character later on. Whitaker is astounding as the general with his dialogue and acting. And the supporting roles from Michael Stuhlbarg (as an agent) and Tzi Ma (as a Chinese general) never condescend. This is a dream cast I am seeing, and “Arrival” is one of the year’s best films.