Tue | Feb 20, 2018

Arrival translates well, line by line

Published:Monday | November 21, 2016 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy
Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and her team race against time to save humanity in 'Arrival'.
Jeremy Renner (left) and Amy Adams in 'Arrival'.

Arrival is what I imagine a remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still by Christopher Nolan would be like. Much like that movie, Arrival is a film that shows us a more grounded look at the familiar story of alien invasion.

The story takes place in Montana, the location of one of 12 alien ships spread out across the globe. It follows Amy Adams as Louise, a linguist who's tasked with translating the alien language for the US government. No big deal. Just as long as she can do it before world powers like China and Russia start having major trust issues.

Arrival is the latest in a recent crop of hard sci-fi films like The Martian and Gravity. It's a story that focuses more on science than fiction. It approaches the subject of alien invasion the way most films treat war and international conflict, taking its time to develop the story in a believable fashion. It takes the more detail-oriented parts that are typically glossed over for the sake of plot and makes them the driving force of the movie.


Now, for many people, that won't be very appealing. Arrival is very much a slow burn and its meticulous nature can be daunting if you don't expect it. This is partially because Arrival does such a great job at crafting anticipation, and the payoff doesn't come until much later. Director Denis Villeneuve is a master of modern tension and that's definitely on display here. Although Arrival shouldn't be classified as a thriller, it certainly has the pacing of one.

Personally, I appreciated the way the movie took its time, because it still had so much to say. Watching the way two completely different species interacted from the ground up was mesmerising. Additionally, I enjoyed what the movie had to say beneath that. The message of abandoning fear and embracing learning is all the more relevant, considering how prevalent and harmful xenophobia is in 2016.

For many people, Arrival will be a bore. It's an unconventional look at this type of film, which usually has more explosions. It's best to prepare yourself for its slow and steady nature. Give it your patience, though, and you'll be thoroughly rewarded.

It's sad to say, it's a rare sight when a movie has an immensely satisfying ending to a genuinely intriguing beginning.

Rating: Big-screen watch