Film Review: Arrival


Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival brings the spectacle and wonder. For the most part, the film is an engrossing watch.

When mystery spacecrafts land on Earth, linguist Louise Banks is asked to try and communicate with the vessel in the USA. Teams across the globe face a race against time to find answers…

Based on the short story by Ted Chiang, Arrival combines science fiction with mystery. The film poses big science-fiction questions in an understandable way, not unlike 2014’s Interstellar. Concepts explored in the film are conveyed on a large scale, so the questions become more philosophical than scientific.

The first half of Arrival is gripping. There is a real tension to the first trip to the site; director Denis Villeneuve conveys this in a very effective manner. The close up shots of Louise contrasted with the wide shots of the spacecraft really hone in on the scale of events. It also positions the audience right with the protagonist in seeing inside for the first time.

The second half of the film misses some of the element of spectacle from the first. It is still entertaining, but weaving in the two narratives is not quite as enthralling as the opening gambit. It is a problem that the science fiction genre has; asking the big, exciting questions, and being able to answer them in an satisfying manner. Hints at the outcome of Arrival are dropped throughout the film. Some viewers may predict what will happen, and some may be disappointed by the climax. Taken not as a gigantic twist but as an explanation, it is a perfectly acceptable way to end the film.

Villeneuve’s direction is strong throughout. There are some beautifully composed shots, such as journey up to the spacecraft. The relaying of exposition through news reports is a succinct tactic. Amy Adams can be relied upon for a robust performance, and she doesn’t disappoint here.

Arrival is a very enjoyable science-fiction mystery. The film poses the big questions in an engaging and easily comprehendible way.