Arrival


There are some movies you connect with straight away and others you gradually grow to love as they progress. Then, of course, there are those that you build a great affection for over time with repeat viewings. Occasionally though you’ll see a film where you suddenly realise mid way through that what you are watching is something that is going to stay on your mind for days; something that moves you or surprises you or touches some part of your own personal situation. Something that is going make it one of your favourite movies in a way that perhaps you are unable to explain to anyone else, at least not without giving away major plot points. As you have no doubt realised, for me, this is one such film.

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There is a point around three quarters of the way through Arrival where things get particularly clever and this is the point at which, in my opinion, it instantly switched from being a good movie to a great one. The thing is though, I can see that depending on your preferences, your sensibilities and your interests it might go the other way. Similar to Christopher Nolan’s films The Prestige and Interstellar, the change of direction might be a deal breaker for some people. The realisation of what is really going on in this narrative is not as jarring as it is in those other pictures but you do need to be able to go with it. 

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The set up of the film sees unidentified hovering objects suddenly appear at twelve locations around the globe. This is not an alien invasion film though, the world’s powers tentatively surmise that, while these are indeed interplanetary visitors, they are here to deliver a message not to wipe us out. Unlike in The Day the Earth Stood Still though the inhabitants of the spacecraft do not handily come in human form and they do not speak our language, in fact their language is totally unrelated to our own speech patterns. So it is that linguistics expert Dr Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, is brought in try and communicate with them. 

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Straight away this is a different class of science fiction than we often get. Certainly if you consider it alongside the last time Amy Adams connected with space men in the two recent Superman films, it simply can not be compared. This is to Man of Steel as Let the Right One In is to Lesbian Vampire Killers. Director Denis Villeneuve has followed up Sicaro with another tense, perfectly paced and beautifully crafted genre piece and as he did in that film he has taken a fairly well trodden story idea and elevated it to something fresh and original.

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The design of the spaceships is simple but stunning. They look like a cross between the monolith from 2001 and a set of and Bang & Olufsen speakers. The way we see their arrival is also handled well. There is no Independence Day style ominous descension, they just appear and we see this as the majority of people on the planet would; signalled by chatter and then on the news. I am sure I am not the only one who will find this reminiscent of they way they first found out about 9/11.   

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Adams is brilliant again and the rest of the cast including Forest Whittaker and Jeremy Renner support her well. The little green men when we meet them are also impressive. (Although no clothes again – why does superior intelligence lead to nudity?) To say much more would give too much away. It’s not that the film has twists but the less you know the better. Just trust me when I say you should see it. If you enjoyed any part of the aforementioned Interstellar, or Contact or the smarter episodes of Doctor Who then this is one to catch. If you don’t love it though, and you may just not, then fair enough. I thought it was just brilliant.

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The Ripley Factor:
An inspiring, fragile but strong female lead, no violence against women (unlike Sicario and Adam’s last film Nocturnal Animals) and no nudity – unnecessary or otherwise (apart from the aliens). That’s just what we want isn’t it.

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Is this one for the kids?
Actually yes, it is rated 12A but while there is a general feeling of simmering threat throughout and the aliens might be disturbing to very sensitive youngsters there is nothing in the visuals to upset anyone too much. That said one of the characters does suffer some personal tragedy in their lives which is more than a little sad. It all adds to the power of the movie though.

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