★★★★★ – “An intelligent Sci-Fi thriller from Villeneuve.”

Arrival is directed by Denis Villeneuve and stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Forest Whitaker, Mark O’Brien, Abigail Pniowsky, Tzi Ma, Jadyn Malone and Julia Scarlett Dan.

A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

With Sicario, Prisoners, Enemy and Incendies bringing his unique flair to the spotlight, Villeneuve takes on a new genre; Sci-Fi. This isn’t your typical action-packed science fiction movie, this is an intelligent look at how we as human beings could interact with alien life.

Amy Adams delivers a refreshingly relatable and emotional performance, with great depth and charisma. Jeremy Renner stars alongside Adams, presenting a new side to his acting abilities which strays away from his action hero characteristic. As the story flows consistently, so does the editing. With ‘dream-like’ scenes being used thoughtfully throughout to aid Adams’ performance and overall character arc. Joe Walker proved himself worthy when he worked with Villeneuve on Sicario, presenting his distinctive skill, and so he shines furthermore with Arrival.

The original score by Jóhann Jóhannsson is subtle in approach, yet intricate in detail. The introduction to the alien life-form is handled perfectly, using Jóhann’s unique composition and eerie writing to punctuate the unusual entity. Having worked with Villeneuve before on Sicario and Prisoners, the familiarity is present, touching on the sparse and complex sound design that featured before. Highlighting the beautifully dark ‘Heptapod B’ which utilises unintelligible vocal lines, further exploring and expanding upon his talent. This sets Jóhannsson apart from all other film composers and has become one of the most influential people for me personally.

Something that’s always been so wonderfully attached to Villeneuve’s work is the cinematography, which in Arrival, is undeniably beautiful. The locations and landscapes are captured with absolute care and provide a remarkable canvas for the story to be told. The special and visual effects are also appreciable and showcase an unearthly visual design for the extraterrestrial beings. There’s one shot that gave me a quick flashback to the final scene in Enemy, which I won’t go into. Bradford Young encapsulates this skilfully.

The art direction, set decoration and production design is fluent and feels authentic. Everyone involved has done an incredible job to provide a genuine backdrop for Villeneuve and team to work in. I’d also like to share my appreciation for the sound department. Dave Whitehead, who has quite an impressive CV, has created an entangled and twisted language for the aliens, only to be experienced in theatres.

Verdict; Arrival is not an action-packed Independence Day. This is a carefully constructed and well-directed story that keeps you thinking way beyond the closing credits. Denis Villeneuve’s winning streak lives on.

Arrival – ★★★★★ (9/10)

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