Friday, April 14, 2017

Arrival: Good Science, Well Developed Theme, Top Notch Science Fiction

Movie Review: Arrival (2016)
Version: Library Borrow

Back in November 2016 I wrote a review of the short story on which the movie Arrival was based. I was disappointed in it. The film version is far better.

Amy Adams plays Louise Banks, a linguist who is recruited by the United States government to break the language code of the aliens who arrive on Earth and park their oblong ship above a seemingly random open field out West. Jeremy Renner plays Ian Donnelly, a physicist who is also recruited, his job to figure out the science behind the alien ship. Together, they are supposed to find out why the aliens are here -- what is their purpose? They have counterparts all over the world working to decipher the intentions of similar alien craft parked over similarly random parts of the globe. Everything is fine as the team works to communicate with the aliens, until the Russians and the Chinese think they've discovered something sinister in the aliens' intentions.

Global colleagues who have been collaborating suddenly break off communications. Anti-alien activists plant a device on the alien ship hovering over the U.S. Every advance that Banks and Donnelly have made suddenly begin to unravel just as they think they're making breakthroughs. The alien ships lift away. And our heroes - and we - are left hanging, wondering what do the aliens want and will this lead to war or to losing any chance at communication?

Arrival is top notch science fiction. It doesn't rely so much on special effects as good science and well developed theme. The acting is great and the plot line is solid. You move quickly through the hour and 56 minutes without feeling lost. And just when you feel all is crumbling around you, hope is revived.

Now, it doesn't seem perfect at first, the story line seeming to move around between time and space, which can be disorienting. But you find out later why the writers and director did this thematically. It's genius, actually. I won't spoil the film for you explaining it here, but suffice it to say, I loved how it dovetails with the big reveal toward the end.

I had been waiting to see this film from the first time I saw a movie trailer on TV. I wasn't disappointed. I don't think you will be disappointed watching it, either. Sorry, Ted Chiang (author), but I loved the movie much more than the short story on which it was based.

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