If I had seen it last year, Arrival would have taken the number two spot of my list for best 2016 movies (bumping Saving Sally down to number three). Heck, it might have even become the number one when given the time to marinate.
Arrival tells the story of twelve alien ships which mysteriously land in different locations around the world one day. Linguistic professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the U.S. Army to attempt communication with the extraterrestrials – which the humans have named “heptapods” – in the ship that landed in Montana. Teaming up with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise has to figure out what’s really the purpose of the heptapods’ visit before miscommunication and fear-induced aggressiveness incite a global war.
As a science fiction story, it’s not only an intriguing “first contact”-type one, but also an extremely clever tale about language and the power that it – or, at least, a form of it – may harness. This is brought about by intelligent storytelling, great editing, and intricate directing – which are seemingly not obvious from the start (I admit that it appeared a bit choppy for me at first). But once the film arrives at the point of its ultimate reveal, everything falls to place. Everything makes sense why previous scenes are executed as they are.
Seriously, that “ultimate reveal” – that plot twist – blew me away.
Its other technical aspects as a film – from cinematography to acting (especially Amy Adams) – are also worth praising. But the most notable thing about Arrival – far overshadowing the rest of its positives – is still the thought-provoking concept it presents, and by extension, its impeccable narrative execution.
This movie feels like a mashup of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, and Interstellar – as it reflects some of their themes and tropes. But it’s definitely more gratifying than all of them put together. It’s easily one of the greatest science fiction movies I’ve ever seen.