"Arrival" is a consistently well-acted, intelligently constructed sci-fi drama that cares much more about character and story instead of mindless special effects. This is one of the brainier, more introspective movies to come out this genre since the likes of "Signs" and "Contact."
Amy Adams stars as Louise Banks, a linguist who is called when it is discovered that a spacecraft has landed on Earth. She is asked to decipher the mysterious language the alien visitors speak. Jeremy Renner costars as her partner in the investigation and Forest Whitaker is an Army colonel, who oversees the operation.
The alien visitors communicate with different symbols and Louise tries to interpret them as best she can. The aliens don’t exactly look or function in an original fashion in the film, but at the same time, they’re also not silly yet convincing. They don’t have a lot of range or personality, but they’re not the regurgitated lifeforms we’re accustomed to.
We also get a back story on how Louise lost her only child to cancer, and this also supplies a good deal of weight and drama to not only the plot, but also brings a nuance to Adams’ performance. It can also serve as a bit of a cheat if you pay close attention.
Director Denis Villeneuve of "Sicario" and "Prisoners" is a master of pacing. He doesn’t hammer the screen with effects-loaded sequences. Instead, he builds quiet tension combined with a brooding atmosphere. It’s an enormous temptation for a filmmaker to fill a movie like this with nonstop action, but Villeneuve does something even riskier: He plays against expectations.
This movie creates a realistic and believable depiction of an alien arrival.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.