Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien, Tzi Ma, Julia Scarlett Dan, Abigail Pniowsky, Jadyn Malone, Frank Schorpion, Lucas Chartier-Dessert, Christian Jadah, Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld, Andrew Shaver, Pat Kiely, Sonia Vigneault, Mark Camacho, Sabrina Reeves and Nathaly Thibault.
Screenplay by Eric Heisserer.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 116 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Once upon a time we weren’t always afraid of aliens. They weren’t always coming to blow up our national landmarks, turn us into pod people, or eat our brains.
There is a great history of science fiction films about other worlds reaching out to us just to share their knowledge with us or to become friends. Sure, we’ve always had scary movies about space invaders, but they used to be leavened by stuff in which the visitors turned out to be all right, like The Day the Earth Stood Still (the original, not the horrible Keanu Reeves remake), The Man Who Fell To Earth, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET: The Extraterrestrial and Contact.
Arrival remembers this kinder, gentler world, when aliens were not necessarily to be looked upon with the utmost of suspicion. And even if we are suspicious, perhaps we should try to understand the visitors instead of pulling out the big guns first.
Arrival starts with a relatively common premise for this kind of film – 12 giant spaceships suddenly appear over different areas of the Earth, hovering in the air mysteriously. As normal for this type of thing, the military is called right in to handle things. However, in a nice retro look at the pre-Trump world, the military is actually competent and intelligent enough to call in specialists, scientists and linguists in order to try to communicate with the aliens and figure out what exactly they are doing here.
Hmmm… trying to find a way to negotiate. It’s just crazy enough that it might work.
Amy Adams plays Louise, a linguist and interpreter brought in to try and figure out a language for which she has no base of knowledge. Jeremy Renner is Ian, a scientist who believes that the connection can made through straight science. She is communication and he is logic. She is heart and he is mind. Together they make a good team.
Of course, there are differing factions in the military, too. Forest Whitaker plays the Colonel in charge, who is open to finding a peaceful solution, but who is also very conscious of the dangers of waiting too long. The opposite side is inhabited by Michael Stuhlbarg, as a military man who feels that a show of strength is the way to fix any problem.
Arrival is a nuanced, slightly surreal fable that seems particularly trenchant at this point in history. In the end, Arrival is just what the world needs right now – a group of smart and dedicated people using calculation, intelligence and hard work to avoid global catastrophe.
In a world where intelligence is all too often overlooked or derided, it’s nice to see a movie that celebrates intellect and empathy.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 14, 2017.