A movie that is entertaining, with a meaningful story line; action packed, without big explosions; suspenseful, without cheap scare tactics; beautiful, without elaborate CGI sequences. Sound impossible in today’s Hollywood? I agree. But keep reading.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a good movie, much less a great one. Everything in Hollywood nowadays seems to be a Marvel movie, a Star Wars movie, a remake of an older (and better) movie, or a sequel to an older (and better) movie that might as well be a remake because it only relies on nostalgia to entertain the audience. You know these movies… lots of CGI, choreographed fight scenes, generic love stories, and little to no plot worth mentioning. These are the movies that generate undue hype by relying not only on well-crafted trailers months in advance, but teaser trailers, and then teasers for the teaser trailers before that, and on and on. It’s not that this is all inherently bad… it’s just boring. It’s Hollywood churning out cheap products that sell because of their surface level features, despite providing next to nothing of substance underneath.
I say all of that to convey one important thing. If you resonate with any of the aforementioned disdain for the general state of Hollywood movies… Arrival is the movie that breaks the mold. It is the movie you’ve been waiting for.
Arrival tells the story of Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a world-renowned linguist who is summoned by the government to aid the military when twelve alien spaceships land in various locations all around the earth. She is called-in to attempt to formulate methods of communication with the aliens that have arrived within the ships, and begins a journey of trying to crack an insurmountably difficult puzzle – to decode and communicate with an entirely unknown species that utilizes an entirely unknown language.
The movie itself is beautifully done. with excellent cinematography, a moving score, and wonderful performances from not only Amy Adams, but also her co-star Jeremy Renner and many members of the supporting cast. However, the most important element that truly sets Arrival apart is simply its ability to tell a story. The plot itself is so well thought-out, so full, so precisely crafted and delivered that it never feels like time is being wasted. Much of the attention to detail doesn’t fully reveal itself until the grand finale, but you appreciate the storytelling ability of the movie from the opening monologue to the final credits. It ropes you in and keeps your attention not through cheap gimmicks, but a resonant story from start to finish. Which brings us to the other reason Arrival is such a powerful movie….
Arrival Movie Review Continued
Arrival succeeds not only for everything that it is as a movie, but also for everything that it is not. If you didn’t want to give the movie a chance because there are aliens and that’s “just not your thing”, I highly recommend trying this one out. Whatever comes to mind when you think of alien movies, I assure you this one is different. It doesn’t rely on the textbook explosions, crazy CGI sequences, or jump-scares to maintain the audience’s attention. It simply tells a good story that has less to do with the aliens themselves and more to do with the human experience, and how we interact with the unknown. It is a movie that makes you think less about aliens, and more about the decisions, coincidences, and interactions that shape your own life.
There is no doubt that in a climate where Marvel and Star Wars movies are the norm, Arrival will draw some critiques. Some may argue that the pacing is too slow, or that there isn’t enough action throughout. But again, this is what actually makes the movie so special, and so unique. It reminds us that we are all ultimately drawn to movies for stories… and reminds us these stories have the power to shape how we see the world around us.
Arrival raises the bar for entertainment, and creates a more intellectual experience for the audience than the usual night out at the movies. If you are ready for a cerebral and emotional journey, this movie will not disappoint. And in an era where such journeys are few and far between when you take a trip to the movie theatre, this one feels particularly refreshing.
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