"Arrival" focuses on an oft-glossed over aspect of a potential alien arrival -- how would we communicate with our new guests?
The film begins with the sudden appearance of seemingly benign spacecrafts at several places around the globe. Each government has to figure out a way to approach the visitors, and most enlist linguists to break down the communication barriers.
Amy Adams plays Louise Banks, who is called upon by the U.S. government to work with mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to communicate with the aliens. Louise seems to take on the task with a troubled heart, with flashbacks showing how her life was torn apart when a rare disease took away her daughter and spurred her husband to leave her.
Generating an uneasy, slightly flirtatious rapport with Ian, Louise struggles with a paranoid war-minded government, determined to show enough results to grant her more time to learn the alien language and decipher their intent. Since governments worldwide are sweating out the invasion with itchy trigger fingers, the fate of earth itself hangs in the balance.
Taking a pragmatic, grown-pu approach to science fiction that echoes "Gravity," "The Martian" and "Ex Machina," Canadian director Denis Villeneuve spins his story with immense talent and a spellbinding knack to tell an intense and penetrating tale. Adams and Renner both deliver understated, simmering performances that match some of the best work both have turned in in their impressive careers.
Villeneuve is slated with the weighty task of taking on the "Blade Runner" remake, but with the skill and elegant touch to handle deep, meditative themes, the legacy of that classic seems to be in good hands.
The "Arrival" title works on another level, signifying the emergence of a fascinating new filmmaking talent.
RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.