Close encounters of the emotional kind...

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

Director Denis Villeneuve is on quite the roll recently, after Prisoners and the fantastic Sicario last year he now turns his attention to a new genre - the science fiction realm - with his latest work; Arrival.

A professor at a local university - specialising in linguistics - Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, who is world renowned within her field, usually teaching a class full of attentive students - well they’re would be on any other day.

On this day though, across the globe 12 monolithic, egg-like shapes have emerged from the sky and decided to hover around seemingly random locations throughout the planet. With the world in a panic over what might possibly be an extraterrestrial presence, school is now definitely out for Summer, as the human population awaits what could be the end of days.

With multiple days passing, tensions and mass hysteria around the world are heightening by the minute - with China and Russia in particular looking towards a military solution - Dr. Louise Banks meanwhile is approached by the no nonsense Colonel Webber (Forest Whitaker), who is seeking her help with possible translations.

All aboard a military helicopter - and the group heading towards their nearest extraterrestrial vessel - she meets Ian Donnell (Jeremy Renner) - a specialist in maths and science - who much like Louise has been drafted in, to help figure out a possible communication method with Earth’s new visitors.

It’s hard to believe that Eric Heisserer the writer of Final Destination 5 could pen such a work as Arrival, that whilst not perfect, grasps those starry heights set forth by Christopher Nolan within the sci-fi genre.

This could have all easily gone wrong though, with the film majorly helped by the directorial work of Denis Villeneuve - who really is on fire right now - who once again employs his trademark visual style - but this time with cinematographer Bradford Young on board (known for 2014’s Selma) - and a fantastic edit - where Arrival could have truly fallen apart - accompanied by some bass-filled sound design with his now stalwart counterparts Joe Walker and Jóhann Jóhannsson, who once again bring that tension building felt within Sicario to an entirely different kind of picture within Arrival.

For a film that seems so large in terms of scope on paper, Arrival is an acutely personal film, one that quickly does away with the distraction of world-ending consequences - vacating them to the background - and instead gets to the root of storytelling itself, putting you on a more emotionally driven journey that its surface trappings of Alien encounters would have you believe - having far more in common with the Jodie Foster flick Contact than a bombastic Independence Day - and pulling you under its surface for something far more deeper and profound whilst placating you with beautiful lush scenery to gaze upon.

It truly is something special to bring those high concept science fiction idea’s into a grounded film, a path that Nolan laid out with Interstellar and Arrival is now trailblazing, crafting a must-watch film regardless of fandom for the genre, because it exceeds it.

Arrival - (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Mark O'Brien)

Arrival is not perfect mind you, in one hand the film exudes an intriguing scientific - and highly watchable akin to last year’s The Martian - approach to the problem of initiating communication with Aliens and the puzzling nature of a relationship beyond that first contact, of figuring out why the Aliens are here and what they want; whilst on the other, Arrival undermines these logical underpinnings with a stereotypical military complex, that is exemplified in one particular event involving some actions of military personnel that truly make no sense within the confines of the world created within Arrival.

Thankfully this is just a minor niggle in what is an otherwise emotional and fascinating film, that Amy Adams once again shines within - who’s on a roll of her own, with a similar standout performance in Nocturnal Animals - because as previously mentioned, whilst Arrival may be touted as a larger, global-spanning film, it’s not.

Arrival is not about aliens, nor the end of the world or military powers, it’s about a single woman - in this case Dr. Louise Banks - and her journey, and ultimately the emotional realisation she - and you the viewer - will stumble upon.

Arrival is a must-watch, poignant and thought-provoking endeavour that blends an excellent script with a masterclass of filmmaking by Denis Villeneuve and crew, who once again hit it out of the park.

Whilst Nolan may indeed be known as the current cinematic craftsman of bringing high concepts into grounded films, he now has company, as Arrival will leave you stunned in contemplation as it fades to black.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    7th November 2016

  • 5 Out of 5 Stars
  • Can meander into character stereotypes

  • Beautiful visuals & sound

    High concept ideas

    Emotionally gripping

    Amy Adams

Film Info

Arrival Arrival
Rating: 12A
Release Date: 10th November
Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg & Mark O'Brien

  • Interstellar
  • Contact
  • Solaris

Yes, though some concepts may be a little hard for a young child to understand.

Director Denis Villeneuve and his crew are already filming their next feature, Blade Runner 2049.

Arrival is based on the short story "Story of Your Life" written by Ted Chiang.

Renowned scientist and tech innovator Stephen Wolfram and his son Christopher Wolfram were consulted to ensure all terminology, graphics and depictions were sound.