Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Here's a movie that seems to have fallen under a lot of people's radars, an intelligent sci-fi feature about a college professor (played by Amy Adams), and a scientist (played by Jeremy Renner), being tasked to translate messages from an alien race. In a film landscape where sci-if tends to mean action, it's nice to get a movie where the tension is trying to figure out everything before the action starts, it's brilliant, different, as well as fun. That last phrase is important by the way, yes this isn't action fare, but action isn't the only way to get to fun.

Arrival, worked for me in a number of ways, which gives it a lasting impression that will likely bring it in my top ten of 2016 list, yes it's that impressive. There's a genuine intrigue in just trying to figure out what the aliens are saying, trying to understand the situation, while hoping the world doesn't intervene by trying to start what would be a pointless attack. Of course, what becomes a surprising positive for the film are flashback sequences involving Adams' character, at first feeling like pointless, but well done emotional filler, the story gradually reveals there's something more going on underneath, which adds to the intrigue the film successfully builds all throughout, I'd say more, but trust me, you're better off experiencing that part of the story. What culminates in all of this is genius, but emotional, something fascinating and powerful, a story with a character who is refusing to give in to the alternative of her goals, even when it means she may not come out as the person she'd hope to be.

Despite all this, don't mistake my praise for this to ignore a glaring weakness in the film, namely its third act. Just so we're clear, the third act is by no means awful, it's still solid, just not as much as the first two acts. The film's big twist is brilliant, but once we learn it, the film starts to rush a bit, which isn't necessarily bad, but it does mean that the answers become easy, which leaves little room for cleverness. Not bad, just the one area they needed more time with.

The aliens themselves are pretty impressive as well, the Heptapods, as the film calls them, are beings that don't offer the most unique designs, but provide a pretty unique experience regarding aliens in film. There's a bit of beauty that can be found in seeing the Heptapods (the main two being Abbot and Costello) communicate, even if we don't fully understand it, there's something amazing to the symbols they create, I'd be overjoyed to see an official release of a novel regarding their speech. A lot of the film involves Adams and Renner communicating with the Heptapods, each session being cute, but also quite insightful to the process of learning a new language, it's where the film gets charming, as well as fun. In short, these are some of the most interesting and entertaining aliens in quite a while.

Arrival is an engaging and intelligent film, there's some fun here, but don't expect action fans (a majority of blockbuster audiences) to be fully in on this one. I personally loved it, if you're willing to sit for a sci-fi film where the goal is to prevent the action from happening, I highly recommend this one.

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Written by Octaviano Macias

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