Arrival Review: Breathtaking and Beautiful


Not since Up broke our hearts back in 2009 has a film made me cry, no, weep so much within its first five minutes. And Arrival doesn’t stop there.

From it’s achingly beautiful opening to the mesmerising, chilling first half and on to the jaw-dropping, head-spinning finale. This is a film that does for the alien invasion genre what The Girl with All the Gifts did for zombies earlier in the year and singlehandedly proves that 2016 has not been the death knell of cinema as the summer season had made some fear.

As I write this I’m listening to the beautiful, haunting soundtrack from Jóhann Jóhannsson and I’m welling up. There’re few films that stuck with me as much as Arrival has and even fewer that I came out of the cinema, emotionally drained and exclaimed “Wow”.

Denis Villeneuve is the perfect choice for the Blade Runner sequel, his visual style combined with the exquisite cinematography from Bradford Young is breathtaking, awe-inspiring work. Light and dark dance together amongst vibrant hues of grey and blue and the first full shot of one of the alien ships is simply an image for the cinematic ages.

The film’s complex narrative from writer Eric Heisserer, and based on the short story ‘Story of Your Life’ by Ted Chiang, is a wonder. The film’s twists (if you can call them that) are powerful and jaw-dropping but most importantly emotional. On the second watch, new life is breathed into the narrative and you begin to understand things in a whole new light.

Yet there’s no cynism, no shark jumping, no fake-outs. It’s delicate brush strokes, building character upon character, delicately balance emotional resonance and rich plotting. There’s humour too, primarily from Jeremy Renner’s Ian Donnelly and it helps keep things balanced.

Despite this being the thinking person’s alien invasion film, there’s nothing Poe-faced about its philosophy.

As for Amy Adams, her performance is the stand-out of the year and possibly of her career. She breaks your heart within moments and by the end of the film, there’s no part of her that you didn’t utterly believe in. Every facial twitch, every gesture holds such grace and despair and there’s nothing that resonates more strongly than her unfolding story.

The rest of the supporting cast do fantastically too but it’s Adams who will floor you as she bares her soul.

There’s a lot to unpack in this film, from its gorgeous visuals and sublime score to delicate narrative and stunning performances.

There’s been good films, great films, fun films and exciting films in 2016 but Arrival makes the case for cinema as an art form like no other. In a time of fear and darkness, it teaches that harmony and cooperation are the only ways for us to survive and it does so with beauty and brains

I loved it. Can you tell?

Rating: A



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