Review: Arrival (2016)

The latest sci-fi thriller to sink your teeth into

The latest sci-fi thriller to sink your teeth into

Films involving an alien first contact tend to be loud, in-your-face, macho slugfests that show the inferior, powerless human race come together to fight an evil horde of super-powered mutants.

Arrival throws all of that garbage out of the window. Instead of M16s, M1A1 tanks and F-16 Falcon jets, it solves the question of ‘why are you here’ through language, keeping the violence to a minimum.

For some, that might be enough to tune out, but for those that want more than constant explosions and Army “bromance”, Arrival provides something extremely special to the sci-fi, alien genre.

Arrival is adapted from the short novel Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, which explores determinism—a philosophical position that claims existing conditions make it impossible to change an event—and linguistic relativity, paying particular attention to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

That director (Denis Villeneuve) and screenwriter (Eric Heisserer) were able to adapt this hard to understand novel into a feature length film is impressive enough, without even considering the eerie, original visual effects and intertwining storylines that come together perfectly.

Amy Adams—who plays the linguist speaking to the aliens—is finally able to take centre stage in a film and she shines in what should be considered her best performance yet. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker help push the story along, but often the best scenes are Adams alone, attempting to decipher the alien language.

Arrival has already received rave reviews from critics and its easy to see why: the story isn’t your typical sci-fi, it brings complex ideas of language, linguistics, and time travel to the forefront and gets rid of all the clutter that bogs down most Hollywood films that attempt sci-fi.

Complete with Adams’ outstanding performance and the impressive, believable set design, Arrival is well worth a watch.

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