Science fiction fans, it’s time to get excited. The first reviews of Denis Villeneuve’s alien contact film Arrival are in and they’re good. Really, really good.
Arrival premiered at the Venice International Film Festival Thursday, a few months prior to its November 10 release. Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forrest Whitaker, the film is an adaptation of Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, and we’ve been anxiously anticipating the film ever since its announcement. Now, these reviews just put those expectations through the roof.
Below are some spoiler-free excerpts (but beware of spoilers at many of the links):
How refreshing to watch an alien contact movie in which no cities are destroyed or monuments toppled, and no adversarial squabbling distracts the human team from the challenges of their complex interspecies encounter. Anchored by an internalized performance from Amy Adams rich in emotional depth, this is a grownup sci-fi drama that sustains fear and tension while striking affecting chords on love and loss.
A solemnly fantastic tale of a highly enigmatic alien visit that premiered today at the 73rd International Venice Film Festival: The film has been made, by the intensely gifted director Denis Villeneuve, with an awareness that we’ve already been through this more than enough times, and that the definition of an alien movie — or, at least, one that’s trying to be a serious piece of sci-fi, and not just a popcorn lark like “Independence Day” — is that it’s going to hypnotize us with something that appears extraordinary because it’s altogether unprecedented.
Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi contact drama is dreamy, freaky, audacious. It skirts the edge of absurdity, as anything like this must, but manages to keep clear, and it includes a big flourish in the manner of early films by M Night Shyamalan which adroitly finesses the narrative issue of what exactly to do with a movie about aliens showing up on Earth.
Like last year’s “The Martian,” [Arrival] about smart, driven people using their know-how to solve seemingly insurmountable problems and to answer the toughest questions. But while that film injected humour into the mix, “Arrival” is a fairly chilly, cerebral bit of business, from its beautifully tamped-down cinematography (by modern master Bradford Young) to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ethereal score.
Let’s just say the food for thought on offer here is Michelin-star-worthy. It turns an already beautiful, provocative allegory into the kind of science-fiction that can bump your whole worldview off balance. This is riveting, dizzying stuff from Villeneuve.
It’s hard to adequately describe the immensity of the ambition of Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” a film that dances with concepts so colossal they have rather obliterated most of the previous films that have attempted to grapple with them (Robert Zemeckis’ “Contact” and Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” come to mind). But “Arrival,” the shimmering apex of Villeneuve’s run of form that started back in 2010 with “Incendies,” calmly, unfussily and with superb craft, thinks its way out of the black hole that tends to open up when ideas like time travel, alien contact and the next phase of human evolution are bandied about
Arrival opens November 10 in Australia.