Arrival (M)

In a word: Elegant

Arrival

Amy Adams (right) as Dr Louise Banks.PICTURE: Jan Thijs. © 2016 Paramount Pictures.

"Reminiscent of the recent film Interstellar, Arrival doesn’t resolve everything neatly at the end but leaves the viewer with plenty to think about long after the credits have rolled (although, disciplined as we have been to wrapped up endings, it may also leave you with a hint of discontent at the lack of answers – but maybe that’s the point!)."

The latest in a recent string of thought-provoking rather than action-driven sci-fi films, Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, provides an intelligent look at the idea of first contact between humans and an alien species.

Casting aside the now comventional responses seen in films like Independence Day, Villeneuve opts instead for a human-scaled approach, focusing on the experiences of two individuals, linguistics expert Dr Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who have been drafted in to help connect with the newcomers.

Taken to one of the 12 sites around the world where the weird, elongated ships have landed – yes, this one happens to be in the US - at the behest of the US military (the face of which is Colonel Weber, played by Forest Whitaker), they spend months trying to understand the language of the aliens inside – dubbed heptapods thanks to their eight legs – in an attempt in particular, to gain an answer to the key question of what the aliens purpose in coming to earth is.

The landings have initially united mankind and the pair are among a group of scientists and experts from across the globe who exchange information as they try to gain insights into the aliens. But suspicion of the alien’s intent – the possibility of threat hangs over much of the film - and the desire of nations to flex their military might soon breaks the alliance apart and puts mankind on a path of confrontation with the new “arrivals”.

Despite the subject matter and the international connections, the film remains largely in close-up on Dr Banks for whom this is very much a personal journey and it’s through its engagement with her story that the film plays with the ideas such as language and our use of it and questions about the very nature of the lives we lead.

There’s an lightness to this film which generally moves at a slow, self-contained pace, allowing you to savour the details, and this is reflected in the way it’s been shot with the camera lingering over the beauty it captures on film. Johann Johannsson’s eerie soundtrack is a highlight.

Reminiscent of the recent film Interstellar, Arrival doesn’t resolve everything neatly at the end but leaves the viewer with plenty to think about long after the credits have rolled (although, disciplined as we have been to wrapped up endings, it may also leave you with a hint of discontent at the lack of answers – but maybe that’s the point!).