REVIEW: ‘Arrival’ is an educated and affecting science-fiction epic

Amy Adams in 'Arrival'

Amy Adams in 'Arrival' - Credit: Archant

Amy Adams shines as a quiet and vulnerable linguistics professor who’s sent to greet aliens when the ‘Arrival’ of gigantic spaceships - in 12 separate locations, including Devon in the UK - leaves nations teetering on the verge of global war.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is sent in to save the world, essentially; via her knowledge of languages and translation, rather than through superhuman strength often conveyed in other alien-combatting films.

Knowledge and education over force is director Denis Villeneuve’s message, with logical explanations interspersed throughout the captivating two-hour epic.

Slow motion and panoramic shots are used effectively to covey the scale of the otherworldly landing; whilst scientists via video link struggle to understand what they’re dealing with.

But this is no ‘Prometheus’: rather than big explosions and multiple deaths, the uplifting plot focuses on making contact and understanding the planet’s unexpected guests.

“So what do they look like,” asks one scientist inquisitively; there’s less of a sense of fear than most sci-fi, alien-based movies.

When the daring team of investigators - led by Banks (Amy Adams) - step foot in one of the gravity-less egg-shaped domes, noise and voice commands are used sparsely, creating a cinematic effect similar to ‘Gravity’.

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The minimalist background music is eerie and jarring, whilst the continual heavy breathing adds unnerving tension as the arrival edges closer.

Banks’ first attempt to talk to the extraterrestrial species - by writing ‘HUMANS’ on a whiteboard - is fruitless and laughable; but as she persists with the word, progress is quickly made and she finds herself in eventual conversation with them.

This is all whilst her flirty, wise-cracking military scientist sidekick/partner Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) throws out genuinely funny one-liners.

Genuinely affecting and emotive, ‘Arrival’ offers a refreshing take on the term science-fiction.

‘Arrival’ is at The Light Cinema, Wisbech now. For full screening times visit