Movie Reviews

Arrival Review: The Thinking Man’s Alien Movie

Arrival Review: The Thinking Man’s Alien Movie

Arrival comes with the same sheen as Interstellar – its trailer and premise hint of something deep and visually captivating. While Nolan focused on space exploration and the multiverse, Villeneuve tackles extraterrestrials and the cyclical nature of time.

As a UFO resembling half of a halved obsidian hovers above land, there’s a perceptible tense mystery around it thanks to the cinematography, production design, and musical score. This permeates through the film as it uses color, space, and mood to complement the narrative.

Cinephiles will recognize the Malick-esque flashes in Louise’s flashbacks with its close-up shots and warm colors. The rest of the movie has a muted palette that further highlights the foreign-ness of the UFO in a mundane setting. As Louise tries to talk to shrouded heptapods behind glass, there’s a physical sense that two species aren’t just trying to communicate but also understand each other. This makes for tense moments that will sustain your curiosity. 

While extraterrestrial encounters have long been tackled in sci-fi movies, Arrival does its own distinct approach by treating it as a procedural. As experts try to decipher the complex extraterrestrial language, what method should you use to translate alien figures into human terms? how will this method affect the results? Louise Banks believes that linguistics is the key while Ian Donnelly thinks its math. Elsewhere, China uses Mahjong.

Amy Adams is regretfully snubbed for an Oscar-worthy performance. Jeremy Renner is decent enough as her foil. The rest of the supporting cast did well in providing different perspectives to the situation.

Unfortunately, Arrival also turns out to be less smart than it presents itself to be. Whatever profundity it tries to achieve crumbles under the weight of its own hokey pseudo-science.

The movie’s thought-provoking ideas become superficial statements as the plot turns into a standard alien encounter’s flick. Whatever unity mankind has is dissolved by self-preservation. 

The movie also stretches an already controversial hypothesis beyond plausibility. It doesn’t help that this revelation is only felt by the protagonist. Well, this is a movie after all. However, this supposedly deep movie abandons its potent ideas and uses it to set-up a revelation. 

Arrival is still an engaging story in spite of this, and you can’t blame science-fiction for taking liberties with facts. It’s a well-executed movie with an affecting performance that’s enough to distract you from its logic. In the end, Arrival reminds us that we should cherish the limited time we have together.



Arrival is a technically well-crafted movie backed by a great performance by Amy Adams but whatever profundity it tries to achieve crumbles underneath its own pseudo-science.

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