Sunday, November 27, 2016

Arrival (2016)

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer, Ted Chiang
DOP: Bradford Young
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker


A linguist is recruited by the military to translate alien communications after 12 alien vessels lands in different locations around the world including one in Montana. While different countries initially coordinate together to share the information they learn about aliens, this arrangement breaks down eventually when they try to pinpoint the purpose of their visit.

The monolithic space craft in the film is the very obvious but what seems a mandatory reference for every space related film to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film's treatment is quite similar to how it was in 'Signs' with the emphasis on what impact it does have on the characters rather than on the aliens or a confrontation. The tagline of the film is 'Why are they here?' and it kind of leads to a somewhat anti-climactic reasoning. Interstellar had a very cringe worthy explanation of 'Love' communicating over space and time and when compared to that, Arrival's message of countries from all around the earth having to unite together and coordinate is executed and conveyed much better. The obvious allusion is to the threat of climate change and global warming. When you come to think of it, the prevailing idea in this genre that aliens would want to invade earth is quite preposterous since them being here itself is proof of their superior intellect. I guess the easy comparison to our own history of colonialism is the reason for this narrative.

Arrival is an adaptation of short story 'Story of your life' by Ted Chiang. A major theme explored in the film is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. It posits that the structure of a language affects its speakers' cognition or thought process. The film proposes that when you learn a new language, you begin to think in terms of that language. The alien language in the film has a unique feature which gives the linguist character, played by Amy Adams, a unique ability. The twist in the end would make you see many prior scenes from the film in a new light. Film had begun with Amy Adams kissing her new born baby which looks misleadingly like a still-born. That scene makes total sense in the end.

It is visually a gorgeous film in a foreboding sense when combined with Jóhan Jóhannsson's stunning background score. It sounded quite Indian at times as well. I watched the film with great expectations after the almost perfect reviews that it got and was somewhat underwhelmed by it. Jeremy Renner's character is terribly undercooked and it leads to an unconvincing ending. Denis Villeneuve is one of the best directors going around now and it ends up as one of his lesser efforts along with 'Prisoners'. Still, it is a very good watch people have every reason to be excited by his Bladerunner project.

Rating: 3.5/5