Arrival (Film Review)

 Arrival is now available on Blu Ray, DVD and Curzon Home Cinema 


From the moment the soul-piercingly brilliant sounds of Max Richter’s ‘On the Nature of Daylight’ play at the beginning of Arrival you know that this is no ordinary alien invasion film.

Director Denis Villeneuve stunned and mesmerised audiences last year with an artful betrayal of genre conventions.  His film brought humanity, style and delicacy of storytelling to a sci-fi world that has often been riddled with clumsily written, overstuffed and disposable blockbusters like Independence Day: Resurgence – which came out few months prior.

The story begins as mysterious spaceships hover above the ground at twelve locations across the planet. In a bid to understand and communicate with the extra-terrestrials, linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are recruited by the US government to offer their expertise at a site in Montana.


As Louise gets closer to an amazing truth, her progress with the aliens is threatened by growing civilian panic, media pressures and volatile international relations.

Like previous Villeneuve works, Arrival unravels in unexpected – but immensely gratifying -fashion. The director has already shown he can handle twists with the endings of Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), but the first viewing of this film exceeds those efforts. It is truly an awe-inspiring experience. The story then takes a different shape– still equally as moving – upon second viewing, similar to Fight Club (1999), Memento (2000) or The Usual Suspects (1995).

 Arrival also bucks trends in its visual style. A far cry from the bright popping colours of Moonlight and La La Land, cinematographer Bradford Young instead focuses on the mundane.

The Montana site (where much of the film is set) is constantly shrouded in heavy cloud, a pathetic fallacy for the uncertainty that lingers over the planet. These muted colours pervade most of the film and brilliantly accentuate the scarcely used warmer colours when they arrive at pivitol moments.

Likewise, Young discards the frantic camera style we expect from these types of films in favour of a slow and still approach. It allows for stunningly photographic shots, especially those which underline Adams’ radiant performance. The camera can’t help but close in on her big luminous blue eyes – a captivating gateway into her character.


The failure to recognise Adams’ performance at the last month’s Oscars remains bewildering.

Even still,  Arrival only acts to solidify Villeneuve’s reputation as one of the best non-American filmmakers in Hollywood. After proving he could master sci-fi, the French Canadian director was given the daunting task of reviving Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). There should be excitement rather than apprehension surrounding this reboot.

In Arrival, Villeneuve gave us a glorious film that celebrates language, life and the human spirit – something we should all cherish.

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The Arrival – 5/5

Dir: Denis Villeneuve

Scr: Eric Heisserer, based on story “Story of your Life” by Ted Chiang

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg

Music: Johann Johannsson

DOP: Bradford Young

Year: 2016

Runtime:1hr 58





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