By Greg Canzio (Fort Pierce, FL, US)
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Denis Villeneuve has emerged as one of the must-watch directors of our time. His previous work includes Prisoners (2013), Enemy (2014) and last year’s Sicario, all of which are modern day masterpieces. Villeneuve now tackles science fiction short story “Time of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. His on-screen adaptation, Arrival, had generated much praise during its festival run. The film now holds an impressive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a great amount of Oscar buzz. But is Arrival another perfect score on Villeneuve’s flawless report card or the victim of overhyping?

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a master linguist who is mourning the death of her daughter. Then “they” arrive. Twelve alien spacecrafts that land in various parts of the world. Banks is selected to lead the US team in communicating with two “heptopods” (seven-legged aliens), nicknamed Abbott and Costello. The mission reaches a boiling point when other countries begin to speculate that the aliens are a threat. With the help of theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Banks must solve the meaning behind the arrival before a global war breaks out.

Arrival is a remarkable and stunning piece of science fiction. This is a gripping slower-burner that audiences will have to piece together like a puzzle. But if you are willing to take the challenge, you will be rewarded with a beautiful finished product. If you are expecting the next action-packed blockbuster where humans kick a bunch of alien ass, you will probably walk out of the film highly disappointed. Everything from the rural setting of Montana to a very personal subplot helps Arrival in deviating from genre tropes. In fact, Arrival may be the most human film of the year. A beautifully crafted character study that dives into the importance of communication.

Arrival showcases the incredible range of Denis Villeneuve. The director continues to dominate the industry with incredible thought-provoking films. Villeneuve explores human interaction, the way we think, and the importance of trust. How would the world react to such a scenario? Would we unite or divide? How would we break through communication barriers? These are the questions Villeneuve asks. And how appropriate as we enter a time of change and uncertainty.

Screenwriter Eric Heisserer, best known for his work on horror films such as Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), The Thing (2011), and Lights Out (2016) has written his most mature screenplay to date. Heisserer had pitched turning “Time of Your Life” into a motion picture for years. Finally, he was able to pen his dream project with much success. Composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s original score is incredibly haunting and bone-chilling which is complimented by Cinematographer Bradford Young’s (Selma) moody and breathtaking visuals. Adams, an Oscar darling may finally earn her first golden statue. She gives the powerhouse performance of her career.

Arrival features a third act revelation that may divide audiences. But it will make you think, discuss, and think even more. When many films blatantly give the viewer all the answers, it is refreshing to be challenged. Arrival not only continues the trend of smart science fiction films to be released in the last five years, it is an out of this world experience that ranks among the all-time greats.

Rating: 5/5

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