‘Arrival’ hits big screen with style

CRITICAL REVIEW

By Monica Mitrovic
Contributing Writer

Photo courtesy of fsm-media.com

 

“Arrival,” directed by Denis Villeneuve, appears to be a Best Picture contender at the 2017 Academy Awards with its memorable screenplay and thrilling narrative.

Based on the short story, “Story of Your Life,” written by Ted Chiang, the science fiction film was released into theaters Nov. 11 across the U.S.

“Arrival” follows Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistic expert, to Montana after she is recruited by U.S. Army Col. Weber (Forest Whitaker) to help communicate with an alien race, later classified as heptapods.

Louise and Col. Weber are joined by theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and a team of similar experts.

“Arrival” reflects today’s politically divided environment as humans struggle to understand the unknown and demonstrate their displeasure with governmental institutions. Louise manages to keep hope and optimism alive for the human race in this sci-fi film, despite the abrupt twists and turns of the narrative.

Adams delivers a compelling performance of a woman haunted by foreign visions of a mother and daughter as her character deciphers the heptapods’ language.

The alien language is first to be auditory thought. When the humans try to communicate, all they receive in response are sounds reminiscent of whale cries. The sorrowful sounds are heard throughout the film creating a solemn and suspenseful atmosphere that dares viewers to leave their seats in tears or fear.

Louise makes a breakthrough when she tries to communicate with written words using a dry erase board as a medium. The heptapods respond with their own visual, nonlinear language which resembles circular coffee stains. However, the heptapods’ language differs in that each circle communicates complex sentences through different segments of the circle. The different segments compose various meanings that are open to interpretation.

But the humans’ differing interpretations put the planet at risk of intergalactic war when the heptapods mention the word weapon. The breakthrough in the communication barrier becomes the catalyst of permanent change for humanity.

As the militaries, governments, mathematicians, scientists and linguists of the world divert their attention to the heptapods and their floating vessels, the rest of humanity descends into chaos. Characters throughout the film react to quick
shots of protestors in the streets, news reels and internet clips.

Influenced by a conspiracy theorist’s rant, frightened soldiers plant a bomb in one of the heptapods’ vessel as Louise and Ian make their way inside. The bomb detonates and the heptapods save their human companions, disproving any pre-established notions about the heptapods’ ill intentions. But just as those frightened soldiers feared the unknown, political leaders fear the ramifications of their acts of war and hasten their evacuation from the areas surrounding the heptapods’ vessels worldwide.

Louise becomes an inevitable force triggered by the explosion. Her visions become clearer, and she realizes the weapon the heptapods described is the ultimate gift.

It’s hard to argue with a score of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. “Arrival” combines the best film elements of “Inception” and “Interstellar,” but adds its own unique and confusing narrative that captivates and leaves audiences wanting more.

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