Arrival: Movie Review

Ever since I stumbled on the trailer for this movie, I’ve been looking forward to it’s release. Being a Science Fiction fan, clearly the subject matter appeals to me but having director, Denis Villeneuve attached sealed it for me. Villeneuve’s last two films, Siccario & Prisoners, were both strong, especially Siccario. Would Arrival live up to the standard? Let’s dive in. Possible spoilers ahead. You were warned.



In my opinion the foundation to any good science fiction film is a strong & thought provoking story, and Arrival does not disappoint here.

It takes a fairly standard basis for a plot and makes it unique. If you’re a fan of the genre, a movie about aliens having first contact with humans is not a new thing. Sometimes they come and peace and sometimes not, and that is the crux of this film, at least at the beginning.

As always should be the case, the questions that come up are why are they here? What are their intentions? How did they get here? Fear almost always dictate why such questions are asked. You can’t really blame the countries in this film for asking these questions.  History has demonstrated that things don’t always end well when new and perhaps, more advanced races meet each other for the first time.

Naturally to answer any questions communication is key. In an attempt to make any sense of what the aliens are saying, the U.S. army’s Colonel Weber,( Forest Whitaker) enlists the services of Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly ( Jeremy Renner). The most diffiult thing to achieve in these films is often revealing a reason as compelling as the mystery it presents. My girlfriend mentioned to me that she feared this being the case in this film. It’s a fair concern. That’s the draw for pretty much everyone isn’t it? Is the reason the aliens are here or what they look like really going to be as cool as you imagined it?

The story keeps his in mind but interestingly enough focuses more on the scientist’s deeper journey. Their journey allows for an intriguing exploration into language and understanding among other ideas such as being hardwired to fear what we don’t understand, or even our basic understanding of time itself. despite some of the grandiose ideas the message of the film is a fairly human one. ( possible spoilers ahead) Enjoy the time you have on this earth because chances are if you could do it all again differently, you wouldn’t anyway so don’t disparage that time.

Linguistics professor Louise Banks basically acts as our tether to humanity and the meat of the film focuses heavily on her. It’s a character study as much as it is anything else but make no mistake, it’s a slow burn. You must be willing to be patient and pay attention. It’s dialogue heavy and there is almost no ” action.” This may prove to be a welcome change for those growing weary of the endless barrage of high octane action movies Hollywood continues to churn out.

I must confess that while I was intrigued and invested throughout the whole movie, it was hard to follow. It’s slow pace didn’t help either, but being a vigilant and patient viewer will reward you at the end.



Very strong throughout. Often times I watch films like this and I don’t find the reaction to encountering alien life to be believable but here I did. Amy Adams was particularly good in that respect. She emoted various complex emotions with true sincerity which allowed me to live the events in the film all the more. Of course, full marks have to go to fellow Canadian Denis Villeneuve sure handed direction. If you saw Sicario, you know that Villeneuve can build tension among the best directors out there. If you ever find yourself watching a film and thinking” man, I’d be scared shitless in that situation” then you know the direction has done it’s job. Especially if that happens in the buildup to anything big, but I digress.

Special Effects:

While not being a green screen frenzy, the effects play an important role in this film. If the ship doesn’t look right or the aliens don’t look real, you’ve lost the audience. This is not the case here. The effects are top notch and the ship has a uniqueness that won’t e easily forgotten. Despite the effects being good the film cleverly avoids showing you TOO much of the aliens themselves, but what you do see is very well done and unique.



Arrival proves to be one of the most interesting and ambitious films I’ve seen this year. It’s certainly a film that benefits from repeated viewings and I will be watching it again soon. It may even e a contender for the est film I’ve seen this year, I’ll let you know.

Arrival respects it’s audience and does not try to dumb down anything or give easy answers and as one of the audience, I appreciate that. If you like thought provoking Science fiction then make haste and go see this film. If you aren’t that big a fan of this genre then I would still encourage you to see this film because it transcends the genres tropes and gives you a very human story that if appreciated, is relatable.





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1 Response

  1. Jerome says:

    Damn, you beat me to this review. Oh well, I have another topic I wanted to explore soon enough heehee!

    The problem I had with the movie was the “gifting” aspect.


    The Heptapods give Amy Adams the power to see the future, and combine that with her expertise in inferring linguistic/visual meaning, we can assume she’s the most well-equipped to understand the non-linear time characterization. Recall that theory they mentioned where being contextually exposed to a foreign language helps one to “think” more similarly in that culture’s terms.

    That’s fine and dandy… here’s my grip:

    1) Can we assume that Amy’s character wasn’t the only one given “the gift”? I suppose we could (after all, why have 12 vessels spread around the world if they were only going to gift one person?)… but this is not confirmed.

    Assuming Amy was the only one given the gift:
    2) Producing a book about Heptapod language serves what purpose, given that the Heptapods left? 1000-2000 years into the future, the Heptapods visit could very well be lost in history, potentially making their visit 3000 years from then a surprise.

    Additionally, to be able to fully understand a language, a deep sense of immersion needs to occur… and how was she able to do that given the 1-2 month timeline of the movie? And she spent, what, 2 hours give or take each session with them? Now… given this limited exposure and given that the Heptapods left, how can we expect Amy to understand (and convey to others) the way in which time isn’t linearlly regarded?

    3) So she has the power to view the future in ways no one can. So what? Can this gift be passed on genetically in order to maintain its relevance 3 thousand years into the future when the Heptapods will call on the human race for their help? If so, her sole descendant perishes which brings the gift to a moot.

    What I’m trying to understand is essentially the connection between “the gift” and how it’ll be relevant in 3,000 years. So, unless 11 other people were given gifts and its their jobs (along with their descendants, assuming the gift can be passed from progenitors) to steer the human race into a debt-repaying state of mind for the next 3,000 years, I’m feeling a bit of a disconnect.

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