The story of your life
At one point in Arrival, Amy Adams asks Jeremy Renner, 'if you could see your entire life from beginning to end, would you change anything?' It's a deep question. And the more you think about it, the deeper it gets. If everything you do creates a butterfly effect, not only for you but for the people you interact with, then every good thing is a result of every bad thing. And vice-versa. The more I think about this, the more convinced I become that our inability to see the future is humanity's blessing, not our curse.
Arrival is about the future, and the past. It's about communication and destruction and fear and uncertainty. It's about UFO's that appear in a dozen spot around the world and the aliens piloting them. But really, what it's really about, is America. Right now. And how important it is that Americans communicate with each other in a non-hostile way, lest they bring about their own nations self destruction.
At least that's what I got out of it. You may see Arrival and only see the film's surface narrative, which goes as follows: Amy Adams is a communications expert. When twelve alien aircraft suddenly appear in different countries around the globe, the respective governments in these areas recruit their best and their brightest to enter the UFO's and attempt to communicate with the creatures onboard. As is the case in real life, if you get twelve different nations together to try to solve a common problem, they will go about solving it twelve different ways. For three of those nations, that means shoot first, ask questions later.
For Amy Adams and scientist Jeremy Renner, that means attempting to teach the aliens our language, while attempting to learn theirs.
That's as much as I can divulge about the plot without spoiling some of the best and smartest aspects of it, which I want you to experience for yourself inside the theatre.
And I truly hope you do, because make no mistake, Arrival is the smartest, most emotionally affecting, most exciting, suspenseful and touching film of the year.
Director Denis Villeneuve, fresh off his critical acclaim and Oscar noms for last year's Sicario, handles this sci-fi tale with his typically cold precision. But as clinical as his filmmaking may be at the outset, the deep philosophical ramifications of the plot and what it means to us, the viewer, and what we can learn from it, suck you in and wrap you up in a blanket of suspense and awe, a blanket that gets tighter and tighter the more the film unravels, until, by the end, you don't realize how tightly wrapped you were.
Everything on display here is an example of top shelf filmmaking, but the true star of the show, other than Villeneuve himself, is writer Eric Heisserer, adapting the tale from the story by Ted Chiang. Interestingly, Heisserers writing credits before Arrival include a rash of shitty horror remakes. This should see him on to bigger and better things in the future, as I can almost guarantee an Oscar nomination for his work.
I could go on about this film, but I don't want to. Part of the fun and reward of the experience was not knowing what to expect. So I'll just say this and get out of here:
Arrival is the best film of 2016. See it.