By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)


Star – Amy Adams
Genre – Science-Fiction > Drama
Run Time – 1 hr 56 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – U.S.A
Oscars – 1 win
Awards – 62 Wins & 445 Nominations
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So Arrival, the much talked about cerebral Science Fiction film of 2016-17, the only Best Picture Oscar nominee last year not to be nominated in any of the acting categories, a surprise as Amy Adams is excellent here although she was Golden Globe nominated earlier. The problem is if you don’t release and then lobby your movie hard in the awards season around Christmas and New Year chasing those nominations you tend not to get considered. A lot of boring films win Oscars because of that lobbying tactic. I personally reckon Amy Adams lost out here because her film was made before all the sexual abuse allegations and so they had to give the Oscar to a wronged and oppressed character in a movie, in this case Francis McDormand for Three Billboards, rather than earlier in the year film releases.

Arrival was directed by Dennis Villeneuve of Blade Runner 2049 and Sicario fame and the film already in the new print of the fabled ‘Must See 1001 Films’ book. It is one of those intelligent and complicated plot nonlinear movies (I didn’t understand it, to be honest) and so its $47million budget did just $200m back, not that big money for an ambitious big screen Science-Fiction film like this one. Best of luck understanding it, folks.


• Amy Adams as Louise Banks
• Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly
• Forest Whitaker as Colonel G.T. Weber
• Michael Stuhlbarg as Agent Halpern
• Mark O’Brien as Captain Marks
• Tzi Ma as General Shang
• Abigail Pniowsky as 8-year-old Hannah
• Julia Scarlett Dan as 12-year-old Hannah
• Jadyn Malone as 6-year-old Hannah
• Frank Schorpion as Dr. Kettler


It’s the present day and linguist Louise Banks (Adams) is lecturing at university to a gaggle of students when news breaks of an alien arrival, 12 menacing cigar shaped black monoliths landing in 12 sites around the world. We then move to a memory sequence showing Banks’s daughter Hannah (Jadyn Malone) dying in early adulthood from an incurable illness, something that is going to have a profound effect on her mind in the film.

Panic ensues around the world but, rather refreshingly, neither the aliens nor the military attack each other. The UN agrees all 12 sites should attempt to communicate instead to assess the risk and find out why they are here. A U.S. Army officer, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), asks Banks if she would like to be part of this momentous occasion and help with language translation, the aliens making a honking growling noise in the first verbal contact on the America site in Montana. She agrees and soon on site where she meets physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a fellow new recruit, the last lot of recruits unable to make much progress and so these two their replacements.

The team board the craft through a freaky zero gravity entrance. Once on board they make contact with two octopus like creatures buried in a fog behind a glass like screen, whom have been named “heptapods”; Ian nicknames them Abbott and Costello. With full military and expert support the two begin researching their written language of complicated circular symbols the heptapods squirt on the glass screen with an ink like substance from their tentacles.

As days turns to weeks, as Louise studies the language, she starts to have visions of her daughter Hannah. When Louise is finally able to ask why the aliens have come, they answer “offer weapon”. All 12 countries are sharing information on the aliens and some take that breakthrough badly, even though no one knows the context. Louise argues that the symbol interpreted as “weapon” might mean “tool”. China translates this as “use weapon”, prompting them to break off communications, and other nations follow. We are now on a war setting and the clock is ticking for Banks to refine her language skills…


I am a reasonably bright guy, hence allowing me to post up on this enjoyable website, but I did not understand much of this movie, some of it risible. How could slow moving aliens with seven tentacles like the funny aliens from The Simpsons be able to knock up these advanced spaceships and technology for a starter? If they are so bright and can manipulate time to get here then why can’t they speak English? That is exactly the joke in The Simpsons! But the film is not a joke as important broadsheet critics with beards and glasses have said it’s really clever. I thought Contact with Jodie Foster and even Knowing with Nick Cage were more entertaining.

From what I could work out the alien language, by contrast to human writing and speech, they draw no such distinction of time in their communications. They exist in many dimensions, past, present and future, up, down, sideways and wherever, hence the circular nature of their writing. The aliens experience all events at once, and perceive a purpose underlying them all.” In other words, the future holds no mystery for the tentacle ones because time is non-linear – like the movie – and as Banks begins to decipher their language, she begins to think, dream and communicate as they do. There is an actual theory going around that the brain can be radically rewired on how you see the world if you learn a second language although the basic rules of communication are already in place when we are born. The film invited those questions.

Entertainment wise it’s enjoyable enough although not the big standout movie experience I was hoping for. I love smart science fiction but I simply couldn’t follow enough of this to get the full whack as that nonlinear narrative is very confusing. Fair play if you did but I didn’t. It’s definitely one of those films the critics had to watch again to get it. There are not enough clues to hint what’s going on. The opening sequence is technically the ending and if you don’t pick up of that twist by halfway it takes away a lot from the movie.

The acting, occasional striking visuals and soundtrack keep it well above the average, but I so wanted the full punch. It borrows from other Sci-Fi classics and a cracking zero gravity shot. But the aliens are rather silly as the military clichés are unneeded. It’s definitely a film you guys need to see and judge to make up your mind on.

===RATINGS=== – 7.9/10.0 (435,234votes) – 94% critic’s approval – 81% critic’s approval


===Critics=== – ‘With Arrival, Villeneuve finally finds a subject, and a script, whose magnitude matches the weight he assigns to it. All it took was an alien species’ appearance on Earth’. – ‘Those expecting a whiz-bang film should be prepared for a more cerebral and emotional experience, admirable for its ambition and tone, if not wholly satisfying in its payoff.

The Mail – ‘Villeneuve, who thus remains in the realm of the futuristic, has an artist’s touch, and the future of American cinema definitely includes his arrival’.

Final cut – ‘Villeneuve has failed to deliver anything near the emotional intensity of his previous work and the ever-dependable Adams can’t save the film from some ponderous sci-fi noodling’.

The Times of India – ‘The true purpose of these intelligent extra-terrestrial beings is a jaw-dropping reveal that warrants a repeat viewing to find all the breadcrumbs left in the lead up to the crescendo.


Rating: 4/5



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