Director Denis Villeneuve has gone from Sicario’s drug-war thriller to a sci-fi alien encounter story with Arrival. A Close Encounters of A Third Kind for the modern generation with an impeccable stylistic, hypnotic and awe-inspiring yet emotional narrative which will resonate within the soul.
The Alien encounter genre certainly hasn’t delivered anything out of this world in a number of years, yet Villeneuve has found something quite new and exciting in Arrival, almost fresh out of the bag in a film where communication, patience, and understanding are all key to its underlying plot theme. The Alien intelligence may be advanced with its hand-like tentacles spurting out ink like clouds to form symbols, which is their language, but the human story is also thought provokingly rich with emotional depth.
When 12 alien spacecraft – which take on the shape of what appears to be oversized chocolate orange segments that just hover ever so close to the ground but never touching the ground – appear at 12 locations scattered around the world, expert linguist, Professor Louise Banks – played brilliantly by a compassionate and perceptive Amy Adams – is called upon by the military – lead by Col Weber (Forest Whitaker) – to lead a team in helping to decipher exactly why they are here. Banks is a lonely woman, with no one in her life and work as her distraction; she throws herself into the job. Louise right-hand man on the team is military scientist Ian Donnelly – played by a suave Jeremy Renner who has thrown off his Captain America superhero persona to really sink his teeth into a role where he can show he isn’t just a one-trick pony.
Even though every country which has seen one of these alien crafts appear, our story resides in the US, every 18 hours a small hatch opens at the bottom of the craft allowing Louise and her team to enter. Once inside gravity transforms and rotates the team bringing them to a wall of white mist where the tension builds in anticipation of a glimpse of the alien beings. With a sceptical Donnelly by her side, a subtle air of humour is injected as two aliens appear and Donnelly names them after the comedy duo Abbot and Costello. With each encounter, Louise breaks down the symbolic meanings whilst building an attachment to the otherworldly beings which in turn lights a traumatic match in her thoughts on the tragedy that has befallen her past. Does the bond between Aliens and Louise manifest because of her openness, and even though afraid, her acceptance of gentle humanity, you bet. Her innocence makes these Aliens open up to convey their extremely important message they have for planet earth.
Ultimately, the story is of two parts, one in which is the beating heart of the story with the relationship of Louise and her daughter who sadly died, the other is the sci-fi. The two stories are intelligently threaded together seamlessly almost like a realistic dream sequence. However, the encounter scenes are where all the intensity lays and this is where its audience will remain truly captivated, almost hypnotised by its simplicity, beauty and message of optimistic humanity.
Arrival is in cinemas November 10th.