TIFF: Arrival

Arrival is exactly the kind of sci-fi film I’ve been waiting for all my life.

There are no guns, no star wars, no green men, no space cowboys, no mutually-assured destruction. The aliens touch down, and we’re not sure what their intentions are. Do we fire lasers at them? No. We study them. We gather together top academics, and we attempt to learn, peacefully (with the army on speed dial, just in case).

Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks. Of all the people on Earth talking to arrival-movie-1-600x399aliens, she’s the one who listens well enough to actually crack the code. And it’s a hell of a code, unlike anything our puny human brains can really comprehend. This deep gulf of understanding makes plenty of people nervous – people with their fingers hovering over big red buttons. Annihilation-type buttons. Dr. Banks puts her own life at risk to keep things from escalating to an out-and-out global (universal? galaxal?) war.

Amy Adams is as good at playing Dr. Banks as Dr. Banks is at solving language problems. Both are beautiful to watch. Director Denis Villeneuve worked doggedly to make sure all the science is sound, but it’s also almost magical. It makes me want to call it the movie Interstellar aspired to be: rooted in science, hinging on human connection.

Arrival is the most intimate of sci-fi films, the aliens (if that’s what they are) almost incidental to humanity’s expanding comprehension of time and memory. It’s like poetry. And it doesn’t hurt one bit that visually, it’s slick as hell. Bradford Young’s cinematography is nearly stark, but it is absolutely arrival2arresting. It works in synchronicity with a hauntingly beautify score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. Twinned together they remind you that though the plot feels startlingly realistic for a sci-fi film, there’s something otherworldly at play. Young’s work is atmospheric, Jóhannsson’s is pulsating.

It’s refreshing to have an alien encounter that relies on communication rather than violence, and to have a woman stepping in as Hero(ine) feels only natural. In fact, the only part of the movie that didn’t gel for me is a 2-minute montage that serves to pilot the plot further ahead and is narrated by Ian (Jeremy Renner). The rest of the story is told completely through the eyes of Louise, so to have her voice suspended during these few scenes is jarring and emotionally blunting.

Adams, though, is faultless; she turns out a character that is mature and complex, and I won’t be one bit surprised to see her name alongside Natalie Portman’s, and likely Emma Stone’s, come Oscar time.

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47 thoughts on “TIFF: Arrival

  1. moviemavengal

    I’m excited to hear how much you liked this movie. I was very intrigued by the trailer, and I’ve only been hearing good things about Amy Adams’ performance. This is just the kind of Sci-fi movie I enjoy. This year’s Best Actress Oscar race seems seems like it’s going to be the hot one!

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  2. Jay Post author


    Jeremy Renner: I believe in other life, yes.


    Amy Adams: I believe there’s something out there… I don’t know in what form. But I can’t imagine that life is just exclusive to our tiny blue planet, as Carl Sagan calls it.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I love these photos, but you really get the sense how at a festival like TIFF, the celebrities go from one room to the next, portrait after portrait, sound bite after sound bite. They look fantastic considering how dull and monotonous it must be.

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    2. Jay Post author

      Photos taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio by Caitlin Cronenberg. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Birgit

    This sounds like an intelligent film and you wrote this up well. You ar so right about most alien films and I’m glad this is a different take. I have to say Amy Adams looks great in that blue outfit

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    1. Jay Post author

      I just saw a preview for it at the movies too! I hadn’t seen it before I saw the movie – possibly the trailer hadn’t come out yet. But I did find myself getting into it as if I hadn’t!

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  4. ridicuryder

    Jay,

    We like alien movies…when they don’t conform to stereotypes and it sounds like this one doesn’t.

    It’s also noteworthy that Adams and Renner would likely be finalists for “Best Hollywood Noses” if such a category existed during awards season.

    RR

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  7. Tim Renton

    It is an awful film. Completely implausible. It is arrogant and orientalist in it’s sensibility, the way it positions the Chinese as the baddies, brought to their senses by an American woman phoning up the Chinese president / general. It is as corny as a B movie from the fifties with the aliens depicted as squid like beings who squirt a kind of ink into circular messages. When she gets in the alien spacecraft with a white board, marker pen on which she’s written ‘human’ I started laughing. Beyond parody.
    If you want a decent aliens /UFO film I suggest you stick with: 2001 a Space Odyssey, Close Encounters, ET or The day the earth Stood Still. Even Star trek: the movie from 1979 which deals with alien intelligences is a zillion times better thought out and entertaining than this pseudo intellectual nonsense. I wish Hollywood were making intelligent films these days but I guess that’s expecting too much from a country that’s managed to elect itself a retard for a president.

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