Review: Alien encounter raises big questions in Arrival

Amy Adams in Arrival
Amy Adams in Arrival

Matt Adcock reviews Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner

Director Denis ‘Prisoners’ Villeneuve’s Arrival is a new take on humanity’s first contact with extra-terrestrial life, as witnessed through the experiences of language expert Louise Banks (Amy ‘Nocturnal Animals’ Adams). Banks is given the task for trying to communicate with our alien visitors – no small feat seeing as these Heptapods are octopus kinda creatures that ‘speak’ in booming resonance tones unlike anything on earth.

As mankind reacts with suspicion, aggression and fear, the world is brought to the verge of global war as everyone scrambles for answers, can Banks find a way to save the day? What will it take for us to put our puny squabbles aside and rescue humanity from annihilation?

Adams is great in the lead role giving a nuanced and moving performance as Louise and she is ably support by math and physics expert Ian Donnelly (Jeremy ‘The Avengers’ Renner). Together these two desperately try to connect with the aliens in order to ascertain just what do they want with us.

Also on hand is Colonel Weber of the U.S. Army (Forest Whitaker) who is under pressure to get meaningful results from the communication process. His men however are getting jumpy and keen to blow the uninvited visitors back to out space.

The Heptapods themselves are wonderfully realized and are worth additions to the growing catalogue of cinematic aliens. For creatures that are so very different from us there are even moments when you’ll find yourself caring about the main duo, whom Donnelly affectionately nickname ‘Abbott and Costello’.

Arrival however isn’t a ‘shooty’ sci-fi, this is a meticulous, deeper, thought-provoking communicate-em-up which is tinged with a haunting melancholy. Don’t let that put you off though, as it is rare to find a film so well made and so engaging despite it’s slow pace and ponderous build up.

Even those looking for another Independence Day sci-fi action romp should readjust their expectations and take this trip as the plot sees we humans struggling to come to terms with suddenly not being alone in the universe. Arrival will certainly leave you wondering what you would do should we ever find ourselves in such a situation and it may well stimulate meaningful conversations with your loved ones about the nature of life, destiny and hope.

Arrival is mind expanding, jaw dropping essential viewing for all sentient creatures.