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Out of this world: Review of Arrival by Rashid Irani

This is a sci-fi flick about a fleet of alien spaceships that becomes a moving comment on so much more.

movie reviews Updated: Nov 25, 2016 16:51 IST
Rashid Irani
When a bunch of unintelligible aliens arrives, a professor of linguistics (Amy Adams) and a theoretical physicist (Jeremy Renner) must figure out a way to reach out and communicate.


Direction: Denis Villeneuve

Actors: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner

Rating: 5 / 5

One of the cinematic treats of the year, Arrival is a blend of science and spirituality that kicks off with a fleet of alien spaceships appearing at 12 locations around the world.

The Earthlings have no idea why they’re here. Worse still, the extra-terrestrials are unintelligible, making it hard to communicate.

In order to calm a panicked populace, the US government enlists a professor of linguistics (Amy Adams) to help decipher the language of the mysterious visitors. A theoretical physicist (Jeremy Renner) is tasked with assisting her.

The film is an adaptation of Ted Chiang’s sci-fi novella Story of Your Life, and intertwines the visual pizzazz of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) with the head-trip of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967).

Read: Villeneuve and Adams wanted to make science-fiction feel real again

Adams is superb as a scholar caught between faith and doubt, and a mother desperate for closure after her daughter’s death.

Unlike most recent alien invasion movies (think Independence Day: Resurgence), the French-Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Sicario) jettisons the destruction quotient, opting instead for a minimalist style to build a hauntingly somber mood.

He dexterously wields a series of flashbacks and one subliminal ‘flash forward’ to draw the viewer into the changing perception of time experienced by the protagonist, who continues to maintain faith in the face of grave doubt.

In significant supporting roles, Forest Whitaker as the colonel in charge of overseeing the mission and Michael Stuhlbarg as a CIA agent are impressive.

Read: How composer Jóhann Jóhannsson found a new musical language for Arrival

Ambitious, cerebral and profound, Arrival is a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience whose finale will take your breath away.

But the star of the show is Adams, whose impassioned performance makes her a frontrunner in this year’s Best Actress Oscar race.

Desperate for closure after her daughter’s untimely death, the efforts of the linguist convey a vital message about the importance of communication and of embracing life in all its myriad forms.

Ambitious, cerebral and profound, Arrival is a one-of- a-kind big-screen experience. The pulsating background music score by the Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson adds immensely to it, and the finale will leave you gasping in awe.

This film cements Villeneuve’s reputation as one of the finest filmmakers of his time.

Incidentally, he is now working on a remake of the 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner. Evidently the sci-fi genre has a bold new champion.

Watch the trailer for Arrival here