#JustWatched Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)

March 3, 2017

 

There are many people that bemoan the state of Hollywood at the moment. These critics aren't completely wrong. 2016 was a prime example of this. A year full of tired sequels, remakes and interesting concepts reduced to outdated tropes (Passengers, you can take an awkward bow for that one). But sometimes you need to focus less on the bad and more on the good, because it is there. We're just not paying attention. Arrival is a good example of something fresh. Yes, we've seen countless films centred around humanity encountering an alien race for the first time but this felt like something new. While a potential hostile move simmers in the background, the story puts its focuses on communication in an attempt to stop the pot from boiling over. A clear satirical take on the world, that perhaps if we actually talked to each other we'd be able to get along. It develops with a nice, slow pace. Everything feels very methodical. The wide cinematography and rhythmic, haunting score adds to this. Having said that, I wanted more about the development of the communication between the humans and aliens. It felt like we took the first important steps and then skipped ahead slightly for the plot's sake. But otherwise we're given time to process things and we're never out-right patronised which would be easy to do in a film like this.

 

Like another film I watched recently, Source Code, this one sits with you afterwards. You process it. You push the map down and iron out the creases, taking it all in. It would benefit from a second viewing, that's for sure. Amy Adams carried so much weight in this film. She's been handed some duff roles recently (American Hustle, Man Of Steel/Batman V Superman) but she really is great when given good material.

 

It's also such a visually pleasing film. The design of the alien ships, the aliens themselves. Everything is beautifully simple. It feels like it's all brought down to bare bones, which falls in line with the idea of learning a language from next to nothing.

 

It's a great thing that Arrival has been so well received. Hopefully it means more films like this, with their own style. with more female leads. We just have to make sure we continue to pay attention to them.

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© Adam Gunton

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