Shoutout to Camelot Cinemas for not playing trailers? I was barely late to see Arrival – my friend’s dog had a pee incident, and then Ben (the dog’s human) had to pee. By the time we walked into the theatre, a few minutes after the listed showtime, the movie had started. But what was a disorienting experience only enhanced an already disorienting start to a film. Arrival is all about Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who is recruited by the US military to communicate with aliens. Twelve shells (“What we call the UFO”) landed all over our planet. Why are they here? Who/what is inside them? And what is the purpose? These are all questions, or, as Dr. Banks would explain, quests to answers, Arrival hopes to explain. Frankly there’s lots of quests to answers throughout Denis Villeneuve’s latest two hours.
Still, I could see this movie 20 more times and never grow tired. It’s beautifully shot, well paced, and explores countless questions that are eerily pertinent today (insert spoiler thought here about a link between Dr. Banks and Villeneuve). Even the soundtrack, with its occasional far-t00-THX intro sounding segments, is gorgeous. Speaking of gorgeous, the alien language is, too. I could question why Louise’s hair was naturally wavy but straight when she chatted with aliens… are we really supposed to believe in her 10 minutes to pack she grabbed a straightener, and are we also supposed to believe that she’s fixing her hair mid-global crisis? But alas, the only true complaint I have would be regarding the very long scene in which Dr. Banks, physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Colonel Weber (played by Forest Whitaker using a frustrating “accent”), etc first go into the shell together. Yes, it was a powerful, crucial moment but after what seemed like half an hour the aliens could have had my own face on them and I would not have been impressed.
It’s the time of year when the studio’s arguably award-season worthy films begin showing. In other words, it’s the most wonderful time of year. And while there are plenty of things to watch, I think Arrival is what I needed. It’s distracting, it’s empathetic, it’s thought-provoking and not in a controversial way but in one that makes you shrug positively and think of who to watch it with next. Whether or not you like aliens or Amy Adams or the awkwardly shaped shells (which, yes, you will grow to love), I would say, “See Arrival.” It’s a worthy cinematic escape.