Arrival: The Bradscribe Review

What Is The Purpose Of This Movie?

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“The premise is that aliens are landing in places that make no sense, and nothing is happening. The world is freaking out… I love that” – Denis Villeneuve.

“I was in love with the exaggeration of reality or exploration of the world from a different point of view, which is science fiction” explains Denis Villeneuve.

When the French-Canadian director admits that “it’s tough to find good science fiction material,” at least he has tried – and succeeded – to rectify this matter in the intriguing form of Arrival, the sort of thought-provoking SF that rarely gets the big-screen treatment.

Based on Ted Chiang’s novella: “Story of Your Life” – a “highly scientific, not inherently cinematic” work – twelve massive, shell-shaped spacecraft appear in the most unlikeliest locations around the world. And the race is on to find out What They Want.

On a university campus, comparative linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks, (played by Amy Adams)realises that constant low-flying jets and a collision in the car park signify that this is turning out to be no ordinary day.  

After learning about the Breaking News of the Century – strangely enough on an HD TV, not via smartphone – the Prof is soon whisked away by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to Montana where the USA’s very own extraterrestrial representative has chosen to hang around. 

There is no explanation as to why a section of the craft opens up every eighteen hours, or how this arrangement was initially achieved but, nevertheless, a palpable sense of wonder ensues. 

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“…At the end of the day, it’s a story about a woman and her child, and the choices she makes. That’s really interesting to play in a sci-fi movie about communication and global war” – Amy Adams.

Why are they here, indeed.

For the central role, Adams puts in an engaging performance, one of intimacy and empathy, managing to elevate this material from the depths of absurdity to which it could so easily have sunk.

And despite its disturbing nature, the gradual unravelling of international tensions actually makes for compelling viewing.

Perhaps the most enthralling scene is the intrepid hazmat squad’s literally breath-taking ascent into the spacecraft, and their conversion to a vertical gravity. One discrepancy and all the guests would hurtle back/down to terra firma!

The visitors referred to here as  “heptapods” appear and dissolve in mist behind a transparent screen. They reminded me of the tentacled martians as depicted in The War Of The Worlds; the whale-like sounds they emit are particularly haunting. 

“Abbott and Costello” – how charming! Why do we see just two of them? …And we didn’t get to find out why they each have seven legs, either.

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I didn’t think it would look as big and expansive as it is. We’re in a black box. With a white screen and a hazmat suit… It emotionally wrecked me” – Jeremy Renner.

What a relief that Arrival spares us the eerie and stereotypical dramatic scenes of the alien armada ominously approaching Earth. Quite unlike more standard alien invasion flicks –gadzooks! They’re here already! An unsettling touch if ever there was one. And it is nothallelujah! – an invasion anyway!

Such a welcome cavalcade of subtle ideas: scientific, cultural and – oh yes! – linguistic. Part of the fascination for this movie centred on wondering how Villeneuve et al would bring it to a satisfactory denouement. Had expected a twist, but on a non-linear level? Heavy, baby.

Ultimately, its stark themes convince us that this film is not about the aliens, but about us: the complicated bipeds. In attempts at First Contact, these proceedings instead invoke that inherent inability to effectively communicate among our own species. Not only does communication (and co-operation) break down, in this hi-tech age, it gets switched off! 

As one news reporter rightly remarked at one point, whatever benevolent need our visitors require, why do they come in twelve ships, when only one would have sufficed?

It is startling to realise that in that cramped and bustling army camp in Montana, Dr. Banks is the only major female presence. Really?!

It is almost miraculous how she and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) crack the intricacies of the alien non-linear orthography in unbelievably short time and in such stressful geopolitical circumstances.

Thankfully, this film is more engaging than Interstellar, and undoubtedly light years more worthwhile than Independence Day: Resurgence. 

Perhaps Arrival’s greatest asset is that, in a world increasingly tearing itself apart through social unrest and breakdowns in diplomacy, it could not have been released at a more apt time…

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BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4-out-of-5

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24 thoughts on “Arrival: The Bradscribe Review

  1. Bravo! I agree with you entirely. So refreshing to see First Contact raised in this thoughtful and I would say “realistic” way. How typical that every possible negative angle to the aliens was completely unfounded and that the only real enemies were of the biped variety.

    It certainly seemed to me like the perfect time for this movie to be released. Perhaps the producers with the gift of non-linear time foresaw our very real need to have any sort of positive news whatsoever this week/year!

    • Thank u v much for your Comment, Stephen! Glad u cld pop round
      Yes, th perfect time for th almost(?)-perfect movie – beware of those bipeds!
      Here’s to non-linear time constructs
      Cheers!

      • V wary about giving th full 5 stars these days – a 2nd viewing shld help clarify my views.
        Nothing wrong w the pacing! Some of my fave movies have slow paces. Perhaps th final 20 mins and th extra effort required to work out what just happened is what’s holding me back at th mo
        Thanks again
        Cheers!

      • Oh good. I particularly enjoyed the pacing too. I get put off by most movie trailers just by the quick pacing. Yes, I was fortunate to piece together the “reveal” before the end of the film so for me it all came together wonderfully. I hope you get to see it a second time very soon!

      • U pieced together th “reveal” before th end – well done, that chap!
        Personally, after a heavy workload, I was just prepared to let it sweep over me!
        Roll on Rogue One!
        Cheers!

  2. Fantastic review! I want to see this one but may have to wait until it comes out on DVD since the new Harry Potter universe movie is also coming out this weekend in theaters. Too many good movies in so short a time! 🙂 Sci-fi is my favorite genre, and while I love big space opera epics like Star Wars, I appreciate smaller-scale sci-fi films like “Arrival” as well.

    • Thanks, Ash!
      Arrival deserves th big screen treatment – th visuals, & particularly th sound design, work so well, and wld probably b diminished on TV.
      Th new Harry Potter universe movie: aha, more magic! Will probably catch that just for Eddie baby (but may have to wait until it comes out on DVD 😉 )
      Cheers!

  3. I really liked this movie. But I felt dumb (slow night) as the full reveal didn’t click until I was out in the parking lot with my wife forming the questions my mouth to ask her about it when I was like “Ohhhhhhh I get it now”. Impressive movie even without the reveal. The mood was dreamy, though a bit monotonous, and I was skeptical of the dexterity of the alien “handwriting”, so I would agree with your 4 out of 5.

    • Thank u for your Comment, sir!
      Yes, w so much work over th last few days, did not work out th twist until much later.
      Having a Chinese general whispering in one’s ear does not a 5* movie make
      Good to see u again!
      Cheers!

  4. I’ll happily add my voice to the list of comments above saying I loved your review of an incredible movie. As you say above, it was so intelligent…especially compared to how “first contact” movies normally go. I was also impressed with how it allowed itself to move slowly as the plot evolved. That seems like the wrong phrase, as the film certainly never felt slow. Maybe “move subtly” is a better word. I was completely enthralled in the story from the plot to the academics to the emotional core. It’s also one of those films that make you want to go back and watch it all over again! Excellent piece, as always my friend. Thanks!

    • Thank u for your Comment, Michael – so good to see u here again, amigo!
      Rather than move slowly – a welcome change from below-average fast and frenetic blockbusters – it moves atmospherically: loved that slow, yet creepy tone.
      Certainly will b viewing this 1 again!
      Cheers!

      • Yep, I’ve been slow moving in my own writing and certainly behind on my reading given my end-of-the-term grading. But my grades are in and I’m reveling in the freedom! So it was exciting to find these pieces on ‘Arrival’ waiting for me :).

      • Having difficulties w my writing @ th mo, but can assure u that both of what u like: the comics reviews & th next Fartlighter Bradventure r imminent!
        Cheers!

  5. Great review! You’re so right that this movie isn’t about the aliens – it’s about humans and how we communicate & relate to each other. The more I think about this movie, the better it gets. Fantastic piece of work. : )

    • Thank u for your Comment!
      Yep, how we communicate, but tellingly, how we fail to communicate when it matters!
      Really need to catch up w your blog – missing too many CPD Posts!
      Cheers!

      • No problem – I’m sooo behind & not had a chance to read other blogs in ages. : ( New Year’s Resolution is to cut back on posts & actually go back to reading more often! : )

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