Two Cineasts’s review published on Letterboxd:
"But now I'm not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings. There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived."
(Amy Adams as Louise Banks)
A SHAME TO GIVE AN EXPRESSION OF THIS JOURNY IN SUCH A TRIVIAL WAY LIKE A RATINGSYSTEM
(Had to add this to the finished review because it felt right) I need to say before the review starts like the title says, it's hard to talk about this experience like over every other film. To highlight technical aspects, to talk about the acting and give the film in the end of the day a rating like all others. This is more than an average movie and has a all time place in my heart. "Arrival" is such film that usually don't need a review, it stands for itself. I hope some of, you that haven't seen it yet, change their minds even if you don't like the movie then I'm happy it reaches more people, because this kind of film deserves an audience. This is the incarnation why I love movies.
Hi everybody, number 10 of "Our top 111" list is a special one for both of us, as huge fans of science fiction and mostly of clever science fiction. "Arrival" however is in so many points very different from genre competitors and not a common every day sci-fi film which comes along with big explosions and effects. "Arrival" is an incredibly elegant and with much love for details told piece science fiction. Villineuve managed to stage a first possible contact and the associated attempts of communication so exciting without being another "Independence Day" but rather the exact opposite. I will not spoiler anything, like always, but I will also reserve indications because there are a few aspects you definitely need to explore yourself and the less you know the better, especially the twists and ending. The story in a nutshell: One very day 12 extraterrestrial spacecrafts are appear at different locations all over the earth. This event changes everything not only for the linguist Louise Banks who should discover how to communicate with the aliens before tensions lead to a war against them.
Last year I had the privilege to watch 4 sci-fi masterpieces all for the first time in one week: Arrival, Ex Machina, Gravity, Interstellar. I consider that week as one of the best I ever had. Good sci-fi films are rare these days and because of that I'm very happy that the few released over the last years are all amazing and kind of invented the genre new, with setting high standards. The said ones and for example "The Martian" used the genre not only to examine the power of space travel or a post-apocalyptic future. Common humanity got addressed more and the focus on the protagonist feelings about futuristic events and not the events themselves. One of them is "Arrival". It was finally time to post a review of one of our favorite directors nowadays. Denis Villineuve can be absolutely considered as one of the talented directors of our time, directing highly risky projects like a sequel to "Blade Runner" or a destructive "Prisoners" that really play with your believes of right and wrong. Villineuve is one of the versatile and gifted filmmakers of the last years. Each of his films were quality, thematised a very different topic and were a critical success. I'm so excited for his new work "Dune" which is the perfect example. A book adaptation which has already a film that more or less flopped. Villineuve takes the time he needs, but how frequently he delivered masterpieces in the past is enormous. "Arrival" is definitely a masterpiece and movie from another world. It did something with me only the best do: I really thought about the topic and gain again new interest in all the questions we frequently asked ourselves (at least the sci-fi fans): Are we alone in the universe? When there are Aliens do they find us first and if what are their intentions? "Arrival" suggests an answer to all those questions and a possible way how that could might look.
"Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict."
(Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly)
Astonishing how Villineuve manages it to bring fresh new and innovative light into sci-fi. The reason is the immense importance of the language and the focus on how all languages are build up and influence our way of thinking. "Arrival" is intellectual, avoids all kinds of cliches and feels very different than "War of the Worlds" or "First Contact". The complex twists are a essential components of the story and not only a gimmick like in some (not all) M. Night Shyamalan movies. The film plays frequently with the expectations of the audience. Surely there is one or another twist certainly expectable or difficult to accept but Villineuve has a sense for cinematic narration what ensures that not one second is boring. "Arrival" is indeed no simple film but is at any time thrilling and emotional without lapsing in cheesy sci-fi habits. Some critics say the pace is a problem especially in the middle part, but I think the film takes only the necessary time needed to explain such a complex construct. I had permanently the feeling to must expansion my personal horizon to process the importance and epicness and to think in another way, to can logical rank the seen.
Based on the short story "Story of your life" by Ted Chiang in 1998, Villineuve changed the title, as he felt it sounds more like a romantic comedy, but more important the script had become very different from the short story. Chiang spent 5 years researching linguistics to just write this one short story. I have read the story today and must say the core of the story is completely adapted and the overall concept is the same. Louise Banks personal story, the huge focus on the linguistic aspects, or even how the aliens look is really near at the short-story. However many little or important details were changed. That begins with sequences that dealt with a very different pace, the narrative style is different (logically by a switch from short-story to movie), or that instead of 12 spacecrafts 112 "Looking Glass" type of objects occure, the ships are in the orbit and not mentioned further. The overall atmosphere is not so mysterious and far more factual. However Villineuve managed it to deliver a film which stick to its inspiration. Here a little recommendation, especially because the story has only about 70 pages so you finish it real quick, but get more interesting information and details like what precisely happens after the end of "Arrival".
Who has read the short story should be happy about the matter of fact that Villineuve and the producer never intended to create a sci-fi film which drives the crowds into the cinema. Rather the goal was to understand the ideas of Chiang and in to process their entirety cinematic.
8 Academy Award nominations but only in one category a win: Sound Editing, but that one more than deserved.
Great is that the actors alongside the whole crew go along and I had the feeling everybody on this project is pulling in the same direction and have the same vision. That starts with the overly convincing Amy Adams, who had Linguistics professor Dr. Jessica Coon consulting her. She plays a character whose emotional state is thrown in extreme contrary situations but Adams manages it to perform at any time credible and with a range I didn't see yet from her. She is sensitive also confident and really seems to have this passion for linguistics. The performance from Amy Adams was praised by critics and I can only agree. There is so much going on in her characters head and heart, like we see in the first seconds she has also darkness in her life, but Adams performs here a more subtle performance of all scfi-fi movies I haver ever seen. Her congenial partner Jeremy Renner transport a huge amount of charisma and proves one more time that even the most people reduce him to "Hawkeye" he can really play real deep roles too. The chemistry between the both works perfectly on the whole line. Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber has not only because of the amazing script the right balance between sympathetic and to show strength. The acting in "Arrival" is absolutely the highest quality and you feel the actors played with body and soul.
The unfortunately lately deceased Jóhann Jóhannsson was the man for the extraordinary scores the last years, the ones I can repeat over and over again. In "Arrival" calm compositions alternate with Jóhannssons typical abstract drone sounds. Varied bizarre and inconvenient sounds let a feeling of strangeness appear, especially when the protagonists are within the ship. He transports the mood of the spectator into the ship as if youself is standing right in front of the aliens and try to make the first contacts. Jóhannsson generated a contrast of the darkest corners of his psyche and reassuring slowly parts similar to whale songs. Overall the music has a big impact of our emotions without forcing to feel what the visual part can't deliver. Bad movies often have this kind of music that should misleads about the fact that without this absolutely over the top music no scene has deepness mostly because of a lack of creating a bond to the characters with the script and performance. But "Arrival" is the opposite of a bad movie so the music really supports the great pictures we already have with a lot of emotions.
The sense for aesthetic is beautiful. Almost all scenes look incredible and absolutely realistic as if there were filmed without CGI and there are no waisted shots. Overall the typical sci-fi ingredients are set to a bare minimum. A cold color palette and a customized smart lighting help to generate the mystifying feelings. The camera work is also full of contrasts because the film is especially one thing: A story how the life of the protagonist completly got reformed by the first contact. Thereby the plot switches constantly from private and familial moments, in very close ups and filmed out of the hand in close range while within the spacecraft the exactly opposite is generated with wide open shots in big settings. Though it doesn't exist a real danger but all seems strange and bizarre where as the personal moments the pictures express a feeling of love and harmony. In the spacecrafts however throughout the camera moving, angles and colors it is exactly made clear that in this scenes very big history is written. The aliens don't act like actors in suits rather than actual beings which have a fully strange shape of evolution and other thinking patterns like us humans.
"Are they scientist? Or tourists? If they're scientist, they don't seem to ask a lot of questions."
(Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly)
I think the movie is successful in being pretty realistic. The scenario is not shown over excited it all appears credible. The movie outlines how would we react? The first question that would come up when Alien are landing on the planet is sure where did they come from, but the more important question is how would we react, more precisely, how would the different nations, politics, the rulers react? The earth is not one world one human race like planets in Star Wars or Star Trek. The countries all over the globe keep are constantly in conflicts, what if they being third partied? I would pull up the thesis that humanity is not even close to be ready for the discovery of extraterrestrial life. And this conflict is a big part, besides the personal stories, of the film.
"We're a world with no single leader. It's impossible to deal with just one of us."
(Michael Stuhlbarg as Agent Halpern)
(You can skip this part it is only a theory and has only limited to do with "Arrival")
As I said I think the world is not ready for an event like pictured here and there is a really interesting theory out there why: There are two possibilties in the universe: either we are all alone or not, both are equally terrifying. To run off the track a few seconds, I read about a very this interesting theory about this exact topic: The theory of "The Great Filter" was about all the universe species has to redress a so called filter or barrier. Life always finds a way and spread. Therefore and because all planets have only a limited capacity and lifetime, sooner or later the lifeform starts to explore and leave its home. The next steps are the colonization of the own solar system and further. There are at leasy 10 billion eart-like planets, but universe seems empty and dead, not one little indication of life. Anything prevents or aggravates that life forms and galactic civilizations are created. A challenge or danger that no species can overcome. That could be anything but a possible way is that every species evolves for their own circumstances so much they destroy themselves. In our example the high technical level and the thread of a nuclear war we likely not survive. Two possibilities: Either we are something special or we're heading straight to the end. It depends on if we had overcome the filter or if the filter will coming in the future. Possibility number 1: We are the first and reached an impossible step, an achievement in evolution no other ever accomplished. The question is: Is life in principal unlikely? Possibility number 2: The filter is still infront of us. It would be so dangerous that it extinguish over billions of years all civilization. As soon as a specis enforced on a planet its destiny is sealed.
The ones of you who watched the movie already have surely recognize I didn't mention one part of the film which makes it so great, but like as announced in the beginning I don't even want to hint something. I only say that the movie forces viewers to reconsider that what makes us human and the impact of grief on that timeline of existence. By examining our behavior in conflicts "Arrival" has a lot more to say about our own kind than all other movies offer with an alien invasion concept. "Arrival" is no spectacle where the strangeness of extraterrestrial life is in the focus, you concentrate primarily on the human aspect and how the human psyche would react. A film that asks a lot of questions like why is it important to communicate through language and not action? Cleverly written and crafted, beautiful filmed and with an outstanding score and one of the best acting performances for me the last years. "Arrival" has it all, is intelligent, overwhelming and has the same entitlement like a "2001". The movie focuses on the great twists but it works all out. This film is not for the mainstream and not everybody will like it, but those who love and can appreciate demanding sci-fi like "2001", "Interstellar" or "Solaris" I higly recommend to watch this a little bit different masterpiece.