Arrival Review

  • Directing10
  • Writing10
  • Acting10

Denis Villeneuve's Arrival is an astonishing piece of sci-fi, delicately blending together love, life, communication and connection in a way that transcends the medium of film. Arrival is the defining film of 2016.


Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival is the centerpiece of cinema in the year 2016. His adaption of Ted Chiang‘s book Story of Your Life is not only a timely film that is perhaps the perfect piece of reflection for our modern society, but it’s also one of the biggest miracles in mainstream cinema, carefully balancing a thought-provoking and emotionally-moving story with a reach that spans beyond the screen as it tackles large themes in an approachable and digestible way that all ages can appreciate and understand. This is how filmmaking is done, folks.

Arrival follows linguistics specialist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as her life and the lives of those around her change forever as alien pods land in several places across the globe for an unknown reason. She, along with scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are tasked with the difficult assignment of establishing communication and discovering the reasoning behind these UFO landings.

Are they here to help or hurt? Where did they come from and why?

These are surface-level questions that director Denis Villeneuve‘s latest film Arrival answers as the film progresses, while Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer patiently unfold the rest of the film’s truer intentions, which are that of a much grander experience.

I must note early on that the trailers for Arrival are slightly misleading, but perfectly so. For starters, the film is best kept unspoiled, which is why I won’t delve into too much detail and which is why the trailers may paint this film as your standard alien invasion film, only with a bit more artistry.

It’s definitely got some artistry and it opens up like an expensive bottle of wine, which is to be enjoyed and consumed with patience appreciation, but that’s not to say that this film isn’t accessible to all ages and “levels” of film-goers.

I will note that some of the things I say below could be classified as spoilers, but I don’t feel that they’ll make much sense unless you have seen the film… so approach with caution.

Many are claiming this to be a “thinking man’s” sci-fi film and it totally is, but I feel like that statement is robbing those casual movie-goers that don’t hold their noses too high in the air.

Arrival is a piece of science fiction filmmaking that will stimulate all minds, because of its universal story and aspirations.

This is barely a film about alien invasions or retaliation and instead a film about love, life, communication, time and understanding it all. It’s a film that presents time as the most powerful weapon of all and dares us to think about how we wield it as what defines us and our great story that we call life.

I know that’s a lot to process, especially without having seen the film, but trust me when I say that you will understand what I’m getting at once you see it and you’ll thank me for not going into much more detail.

Arrival is a film that moved me. It’s also a film that wrecked me and yet here I sit praising it. I loved it I still can’t shake the feelings that haven’t left long after having viewed it.

Denis Villeneuve‘s direction is confident, yet gentle — exposing the film’s rawest and most precious of emotions in a way that feels organic and purposeful. Not once does Villeneuve linger on a scene for too long and not once does he feel the need to include something that doesn’t serve a greater purpose or meaning later down the road. Arrival is a film that’s meticulously constructed with so much thought and feeling.

Credit must be given to writer Eric Heisserer and novelist Ted Chiang for presenting Villeneuve with such a dense piece of material to visualize and connect us to. I’ve never read Chiang’s book, so I can’t direct the credit too evenly, but I will say that the all-around writing for the film is nothing short of a miracle of words.

Amy Adams gives a vulnerable and stoic performance that will no doubt earn her some recognition and love, while Jeremy Renner and the rest of the immediate cast help give her strength to excel, while still providing the film with that much-needed backbone — I’m not saying that Renner or even Forest Whitaker‘s performances are wasted, but they’re definitely more meant for forward direction and rounding.

I try not to get too “political” in in my reviews, but I must say that Arrival definitely is a timely film that we all could learn from. There’s so much hate and anger spewing into the world right now and it’s sort of amazing to see a film get dropped into theaters during the thick of it all with such a strong message and purpose. It’s hopeful and bright in ways that many have forgotten.

I urge you all to go out and give Arrival a shot. I feel that most will be blown away and impressed with what Villeneuve and his team have come up with.

Arrival is an optimistic piece of sci-fi that will remind us yet again that cinema is far from dead, especially mainstream movie-going. It’s also a film that focuses on communication and connection over action and violence in a way that not only makes for great storytelling, but also is a perfect reaction to the world that we live in and the future that we are creating.

I can’t wait to see it again.

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