Ricky's Film Reviews

Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases

Arrival

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A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

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Cast

Amy Adams – Louise Banks

Jeremy Renner – Ian Donnelly

Michael Stuhlbarg – Agent David Halpern

Forest Whitaker – Colonel GT Weber

Tzi Ma – General Shang

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Found in Translation

Arrival wasn’t a bad little movie at all. I expected Adams to wade nicely through a load of pretentious bullshit, but on the contrary, she lead the movie nicely to sci-fi success.
There was something hugely different about Arrival which seperated it from many other features of this genre. And I think one of its winning streaks was how non-fussy the plot was.
Usually, we get space crafts instantly landing and many people on Earth running around hysterically, complete with the ‘traffic jam’ scene showing a long stretch of American motorway swamped in vehicles with suitcases strapped to the top (a-hem, Independence Day, Deep Impact, War of The Worlds, World War Z).

However, with this movie the extraterrestrial threat isn’t immediately apparent, and the beginning of the movie is fuelled by a good dose of anticipation. Director Denis Villeneuve executes the opening nicely with a dark atmosphere (literally – lighting-wise as well as performance) and slowly builds up to reveal the bizarre banana-shaped things that have landed on Earth. This anticipation makes good viewing; Louise stood in her lecture hall about to teach her students, and suddenly everyone’s phones start going off. She switches the lecture hall’s giant television on and watches the footage in shock..
But none of what is unfolding is clearly shown so if you’re expecting to get a glimpse of the UFO’s – don’t. All this action heightens the suspense perfectly. For once – a movie that wasn’t trying to excite its audience by chucking as much alien shit around the screen as possible.

I was enjoying this.

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The best scenes in this movie have to be when Louise is aboard the alien craft, trying to communicate with ‘them’. These are pivotal moments of Arrival which hold the production together perfectly – because they’re so weird – and let’s face it, the movie would be shit without.
The whole ‘ink splatter’ concept is superb, having aliens who communicate by way of drawing pictures. Stunning visuals come into play here as gigantic grey-black patterns splodge across a bright white screen. I won’t lie – I was bloody mesmerised. These scenes blended sci-fi with challenge and became brilliantly baffling; even I was sat there trying to figure out what the aliens were trying to say to the humans. And yes – these scenes kept me off my phone. That has to say something. NOTHING keeps me off my favourite tool. Whatsapp and Grindr are just too fun.

Adams performs beautifully throughout Arrival. Possibly one of her finest movies, the woman tones down her usual firey image and softens up for the lead role of Louise Banks. She’s very believable as a painedmother and puts a lot of emotion into certain scenes, be it tears of sorrow or joy.
And the scene where she becomes enfulfed by the heptapod’s otherworldly lair makes an interesting watch. Adams’ peachy, slow motion facial expressions blended with the (hair-raising) special effects used here are both excellent and strange – another element that kept me transfixed on the screen. And all this is without the terrifying yet ‘normal’ gravity situation inside the huge craft..

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I was glued to the screen during the ‘alien bits’ of this movie. I found them quite intriguing, and I admired how the producers turned an alien confrontation into a game of translation – with a dash of race-against-time panic. Watching the lead character try in urgency to decipher the heptapods language is a great watch – especially when it reaches the “offer weapon” moment..

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The scenery used also helped; the movie doesn’t throw the viewer into famous or familiar surroundings, instead, it opens up a beautifully serene American landscape that is so stark it’s stunning. Smoky clouds tumbling over bright green grass, hitting a gigantic glossy black space craft. Nice.

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Lost in Translation

So what went wrong?

Arrival does a great job of revealing a fascinating concept – and then dropping it on its fanny. So by the end the movie I was craving more; more explanation, reasoning for what happens to Louise, and a deeper look at ‘them’. It gives the viewer a dose of ‘the aliens do this’ – but doesn’t look far enough into the ‘here is WHY the aliens do this’. And on that scale Arrival becomes tedious. One of those productions the producer thinks it clever to ditch halfway through the main action before the movie has the chance to get juicy.

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Fans of hardcore sci-fi may be disappointed by Arrival. It’s not abysmal as such – it just lacks in something. Something I can’t quite put my finger on, but you know when a movie is kind of shit and you don’t know why? That’s Arrival. If it wasn’t for the whole alien ink fest and steady beginning, I probably would have Tinder’d all the way through.

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Arrival is a nicely contained little movie. And by this I mean it is structured in a way which ensures one solid flow of science fiction entertainment, focusing purely on the main event. It doesn’t stray from its point, nor does it spiral into any other random bullshit like many other films of its genre.
You get Adams. You get Renner. You get the alien visitors. And you have the problem of trying to translate their language to find out exactly why they arrived in the first place.

The theme of time travel is a fantastic addition to the movie, boosting its strange atmosphere even more and offering the viewer a surprising finale. Just brilliant.

Arrival.
Give it a go if you’re a fan of either Adams (most of you horny boys are) or ‘weird alien stuff’. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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This entry was posted on December 16, 2016 by .
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