If you ask me who is the best working director today, Dennis Villeneuve will be in the discussion. I have seen Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, and now Arrival. Each of these films are in my humble opinion quite fantastic with Arrival quite possibly being his finest film to date.
Now that’s a proper introduction.
I am going to keep this review spoiler-free because the best way to see this film is going in as blind as possible. The best part of this film, for me, is the editing. I love the way this film is pieced together. There is a fantastic flow from scene to scene and everything feels like it comes together at the end of the film. The writing and story of the film are both quite good. If you are expecting even a little bit of action, then you will be sorely disappointed. This is a film for thought, which is refreshing to see. When something even remotely “action-oriented” happens it has purpose unlike so many of today’s blockbusters.
For lack of a better word: “stuff” does not happen just to entertain audience members. Everything has a purpose and when it all comes together it will amaze you. The characters in the film are all fairly good, but Amy Adams’ character is the highlight. She is a highly intelligent and raw character brought to life by Adams’ devoted performance. I smell some Oscar consideration (for this film or at the very least Nocturnal Animals). She is given the most screen time so it is natural that she is the most interesting character, but that is not to say the rest of the characters are not. Jeremy Renner plays a physicist who believes math is more important than language. His character and Adams’ character clash initially but it is very interesting to see how their characters evolved over time.
Come back to me.
The film does have some minor flaws that are really just a handful of bizarre dialogue decisions. There is also no sense of time in the film, but that just may be the point. Other than that I do not have other complaints. Is the film slow? Yes, but believe me when the third act kicks in it validates the slow pace of the first two acts.
Before mentioning a couple of other excellent elements of the film I do want to explore the central theme of the film: Unity. Language is what unites all of us and we understate its importance every day. This film reminds us how crucial language is and what a powerful weapon it could be. It is a refreshing message to witness. Clearly this film is full of fantastic ideas that really make you think, but there are some great aesthetic choices that truly help elevate the film. The cinematography is breathtaking. Oscar consideration? Yes. The soundtrack is fantastic as well. The first couple of minutes had me tearing up because of the impactful images and beautiful music. Some of Max Richter’s music was used and it was used perfectly. The special effects are also quite great. The aliens look good and the spaceships were very realistic. This is a well-crafted film from the bottom up.
This is not only one of the best films this year but it is one of the best Sci-Fi films I have ever seen. There is a reason why I am so excited whenever I see Dennis Villeneuve’s name attached to something. I expect this film to be nominated for many Oscars, but the only one I absolutely want it to win is editing. If the editing in the film was poor, then the film as a whole would fail. This is absolutely not the case and as a result the editing in this film becomes some of the best I have ever seen.