Synopsis: A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.
Tagline: Why are they here?
Release Date: 2016-11-11 | MPAA Rating: PG-13 | Coolthulhus Earned: 5
(Non-spoilery portion of review)
Arrival is a well-shot, solidly entertaining film. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner are both believable as their characters, and work well together. Forest Whitaker really has more a bit part than anything, but he does well with what he has. Nothing about any of the roles push the actors in any way, shape, or form. The pacing is good. The dialogue isn’t exactly exciting, but it keeps the viewer entertained. There were times (especially near the end) where I was definitely leaning forward in my seat, completely caught up in the story. Even though I was 99.9 percent sure I knew how things were going to work out.
For as potentially exciting as the plot is – alien first contact – Arrival is laid back. It is much more about the mental puzzle Adams’ character has to solve than anything else. I watched all three of the trailers, and none of them tell you about a core focus in this movie. Don’t go into Arrival thinking you’re going to watch a film with more than a bare minimum of action in it. Action is not what Arrival is all about.
It was a pretty accurate look at how the world works (or doesn’t work) together right now. It does deal with the not-unusual idea in sci-fi that the world needs an event that makes it work together to avoid tearing itself apart.
And the aliens? Yeah, those were seriously awesome. There was at least one scene in the movie that made me go “Nope. Just… nope!” that involved them.
Overall, it was very entertaining. Possibly the best movie I’ve seen in quite a long time. You definitely need to go watch it.
This portion of the review will have spoilers.
Arrival was a difficult movie to watch, especially if you’ve lost a child. Mainly because it asks a question that I think probably every parent who has lost a child has asked themselves at some point. At least some variation of it.
“If you knew your child would die, would you have it anyways?”
That is an incredibly easy question to ask yourself, and an incredibly hard one to answer. There is no right or wrong answer to this. It depends on several things, and is unique to each parent and child. (Loss parents should never feel obligated to answer this question if someone asks it. It quite literally is no one’s business but theirs. If you aren’t, at the very least, a close friend, don’t you dare ask this question to a grieving parent. Don’t. you. dare.)
There were things I liked, and things I didn’t in Arrival. And some I’m not sure how I feel about. Now, I’ll make the disclaimer that as of the time of writing this review, I have not read the book. So I don’t know if some of the stuff in the movie was things they had to keep a certain way or not.
I didn’t like the typical gender roles on display. Adams character is, of course, the one who comes off very weak in the beginning. But she’s also the one who ends up being the strong one in the end. And the father in the story? He’s strong at the beginning, but you find out he deserts them because he can’t handle what he finds out. It makes for a powerful story, but it also reinforces the idea that men are weak and will run from personal hardship. That’s not always the case, and I wish that hadn’t been the message given here. Men and women are equally strong, and equally weak.
I don’t know how I felt about how the diagnosis and death scenes were treated. They’re very cliche, but sometimes cliches are that way for a reason. I think the crew handled them with respect, if not originality, so I’m okay with that portion of them at least.
I don’t think it was right that the trailers in NO way hint at what this movie is really about. Loss parents will be blindsided going in to it. Absolutely knocked sideways unless someone has taken them aside and given them a heads up. Consider this your heads up, and definitely take any loss parents you know to the side and give them a hint about this question before they go in to see Arrival.
Arrival was a fantastic film. It really was. Even with all the stuff I just talked about, and with the things it made me think about, I still liked it. Even my partner said he liked it, though he admitted he was still working on processing what he watched. I think whether you’re just wanting a movie that makes you think, or a proper sci-fi watch that isn’t Star Wars or Star Trek, you’ll find something you like in Arrival.
It’s just that loss parents are going to look at it a little bit differently than most other people do.