Film Review: Arrival (M15+) (USA, 2016) is an emotionally immersive film

Grounded by Amy Adams’ breathtaking performance, Arrival is a departure of sorts for director Denis Villeneuve, opting to showcase the lighter sound of humanity here as opposed to the more pessimistic tones he showcased with Prisoners and Sicario.  A film that feels both personal and grand, Arrival intertwines the beginnings and endings of time, creating a sense of intrigue that makes us feel like we are witnessing something that is distinctly life-changing.

Focusing specifically on a spacecraft that has mysteriously landed in Montana (one of 12 worldwide) Arrival wastes little time in detailing the varied reactions of those in power, and how top linguist Louise Banks (Adams, Oscar-worthy) is recruited by the US army to assist in potential communication with the alien life forms that home the crafts.  Intelligent science-fiction features like Contact and Interstellar are likely to be such titles that Arrival could compare itself to, but there’s a heavier spiritual aspect present here, and it’s ultimately a film whose experience outweighs its explanation.

There’s a sense of both normality and melancholy to Banks upon our first meeting with her, so it’s through her staffing via Forest Whitaker’s stern Military Intelligence Colonel that she garners purpose.  The sadness that surrounds Banks is well balanced by the lighter tone introduced through Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist who assists Banks first-hand in successfully communicating with the aliens; a descriptive term Banks herself admits to having trouble using.

Whilst Arrival is a supremely heavy film, it’s so full of heart and hope that I feel no words will do it justice.  This is an emotionally immersive film in every sense, and the skill Villenueve demonstrates in executing this is nothing short of masterful.  The way the story eventually reveals itself is ripe for discussion, and I feel the need to honour this exceptional film by revealing as little as possible so audiences can revel in the involvement that is this beautifully effective production.

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Arrival is in cinemas now.