Kyle J. Steenblik

Arrival is the Surprise 2016 Needs [Review]

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Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay by: Eric Heisserer
Based on Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
Running time 116 minutes
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a renowned professor of linguistics, and one of the world’s best translators. When several mysterious spacecraft suddenly arrive one day, Louise is approached by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to help with the most challenging translation job in the world. To help her with this incredible challenge is scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), along with experts across the globe. When the world slips into chaos and panic as fear sets in Louise may be the only chance humanity has.

Arrival may be one of the most impactful and unique science fiction films of 2016, to say that I was captivated is an understatement; I was fully engrossed. Confusion and anxiety ebbed and flowed through each scene as the audience was literally taken for a ride. Running the gauntlet of every human emotion imaginable, we as the audience are with the principal characters every step of the way. When I worried, I was confused I could easily recognize that everyone on screen was just as confused as I was. At no point did I get the feeling they knew something I did not. This incredibly smart science fiction never once condescends to the audience, or tries for clever trick twist endings.

This film will only be a conversation piece for a long time; I would not be surprised if it was studied for the excellent execution of so many notoriously difficult elements of film. The tension buildup is entirely organic, the concealment of visual elements is just enough to keep tension without asking too much of the audience. Fear through the unknown and not simply loud noises can inspire heart-pounding terror, and a well-placed and time exclamation from exuberant characters shatters tension perfectly. There is so much this film does so well that I would almost call it perfect, and I am very willing to overlook minor flaws, or small components that don’t work as well as they could. I will be watching this film again; I will bring this one home, and share it enthusiastically. I will also refrain from spoiling any more than I already have, and just ask that you trust me, it really is that good.

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