I find it refreshing when watching a movie, especially a Sci-Fi movie, which tells a great story with small amounts of dialogue and large amounts of feeling and emotion. Sci-Fi tends to rely on either overly colourful displays with a fun, grand story, and humour (movies like Guardians of the Galaxy), or they are have an inexplicably detailed story with lots of heart and emotion (such as Interstellar). This is fine and both of the mentioned movies are amazing in their own right; however a movie like Arrival that plays more on the interaction and story that is created between the interaction of Louise (Amy Adams) and the alien species (Heptapods) is a refreshing one. It’s a story that is meant to get you thinking and to challenge you with what you are watching.
The movie opens up with the detailing of Louise and the birth of her daughter. It follows the brief yet emotionally short life of her daughter, and is done in a way that draws you in, and gives you an understanding in to Louise’s personality. There is not a point in these scenes that feels over-the-top or forced. It comes across as natural which is a great testament to Adams and her acting, to not force a larger overacted scene. The story then follows Louise to her work where it is discovered that she is a linguist at a college, teaching students about the history of different dialects. This provides the viewer with a little exposition in to her place in films story.
This is the point in which the story begins to make its turn, with the arrival of 12 unidentified flying objects that have appeared around the world. We are introduced to Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) as he attempts to recruit Louise, along with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) who is a theoretical physicist. They are recruited in attempt to speak with the Heptapods in order to understand why they are here. Louise and Ian are able to find a way to do this, and even give the Heptapods names; Abbott and Costello. This helps in providing more of a bond with the aliens; both with the characters, and the viewer. It helps with creating an investment in these new characters, and a want or need to understand why they have arrived.
Towards the third act of the movie we see tensions are flaring around the globe as other international powers are caving to the mass hysteria surrounding the space crafts, and consider resorting to violence as an action to have them destroyed. The movie here takes a minor turn with an interesting twist involving Louise and her interactions with Abbott and Costello. It plays on her emotions and experiences that we had witnessed in the beginning of the film, and has us question everything we have seen up to this point. It is done in a tone that is somewhat soft, which is not often scene amongst sci-fi movies.
This is a movie worth watching even if you are not a fan of Sci-Fi. There is a lot going on here, even if at time it feels like there isn’t. There is a great amount of atmosphere that is derived from the story-telling and visuals that draw you in. The CGI work is well developed, with both the Heptapods and the environment having benefited from the effects team. The acting is fantastic without being over-the-top and forced, and the soundtrack really helps to hone in the emotion and drama in each scene. Adams keeps a calm composure during her scenes, and it brings in a sense of realism to her role that makes her relatable, and Renner and Whitaker help with bringing this film together.
Watch the trailer below: