Amy Adams strives to communicate with aliens in this thoughtful and grown-up first contact film.
released 10 November 12a | 116 minutes Director denis villeneuve Cast amy adams, Jeremy renner, Forest Whitaker, michael stuhlbarg
“Not everyone is able to process experiences like this,” Amy Adams’s character is warned early on in Arrival’s second act. It’s a sentiment that applies to her journey, to some audiences (we heard confused voices as we left our screening) and to the act of adaptation itself.
The first sci-fi movie for director Denis Villeneuve, it’s based on Ted Chiang’s Nebula Award-winning novella Story Of Your Life. It follows Louise Banks, a professor of linguistics recruited by the US military to be part of the world’s first communication with an alien species, whose 12 enigmatic ovoid spacecraft are hovering at seemingly random points around the globe.
To outline more would be a disservice to Arrival’s carefully crafted delivery, but it’s safe to say that the book’s complex beauty has been lost in translation somewhat in the process of creating a mainstream sci-fi movie (albeit one with a greater air of intelligence than the usual blockbuster fare). That said, it’s still an excellent, grown-up film.
It’s anchored by Adams’s astonishing, Oscar-worthy performance – silently conveying grief, loneliness, awe and fear, via micro-expressions that’ll have you gripped, desperately trying to map her emotional inner world.
Jeremy Renner also impresses, bringing a subtle sensitivity to his slightly nerdy scientist. It’s such a perfectly pitched supporting turn that it could almost go unnoticed, but Renner’s doing great work, allowing you to connect with his character while amping up Adams’s impact.
It’s clear Christopher Nolan’s work has had an impact on Villeneuve. Fans of Inception, Interstellar and The Prestige will find plenty to enjoy here. We’re not sure Arrival has the layered rewatch value of those movies – there’s less going on than it seems, especially for anyone who enjoyed the original novella. Some may need a second watch, though, thanks to a couple of muddled reveals. So, not perfect then. But definitely worth experiencing. Sam Ashurst
Despite the nuclear war, Countdown continued as normal.