Winner - Best Sound Editing
Paramount Pictures (2016)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
The sci-fi movie Villeneuve finally had the opportunity to make, Arrival is as far-removed from alien flicks such as Independence Day as you can get. A sci-fi film with intelligence oozing from every scene, not having to revert to a full-blown CGI-orgy battle at the end to justify its existence. Every aspect of the movie was meticulously covered – subject experts in phonetics, linguistics and art were heavily consulted to ensure high levels of accuracy when it came to the movie’s language and visuals. The story itself is loosely based on a short story (“Story of Your Life”) though the cinematic result varies greatly to its source material. That being said, Arrival just did not grip me like I hoped it would do.
The premise was something I was greatly looking forward to – why were the aliens here? Could the language be deciphered? What were the ramifications of failure? Finally, a brainy sci-fi movie!
With all of that, I found myself….bored, I guess, as the movie went on. Not with the movie as a whole, just the majority of elements – I was interested in the subplot with Louise’s daughter, though left unsatisfied with the explanation of why these dreams were happening. The aliens bought with them a gift that Louise snaffled up, though it won’t be necessary for another 3000 years – why? Who knows. For mystery and intrigue? Or just a plot convenience…extrasensory perception also ensures the movies conclusion ends on a darker note (or selfish, dependant on your point of view)
The movie certainly was geared for intellects – I definitely had to look up the Sapir-wharf hypothesis to ensure I still knew nothing about it – and the movie began with an atmosphere building first act, ensuring the right questions were asked, the correct theories mooted and the right level of urgency being instilled to ensure there were stakes. From then on, it began to sink into hallucinative folly. The aliens would only respond to the two leads worldwide, their messages were deciphered and encoded in an extremely short period of time and the twist that the species bestowed upon Louise basically annoyed me – maybe not descriptive, but honest. The movie seemed to shift from serious sci-fi movie to a weird, dream-like picture with lots of political ramblings and the message that we all need to work together in this world to achieve peace and advancement – a message so blatant the aliens may as well have put on a sexy dress and pranced around spouting it about in ink.
Amy Adams was dependable in her role as the intelligent yet burdened linguist and bought a respectable level of humanity to the story. The rest of the cast for me were largely wasted – Forest Whitaker became a generic movie Army character, staring and barking in a strange accent a lot, and Stuhlbarg was criminally underused. Renner was only given brief moments to shine during the movie, and very much played the supporting role also.
With Bradford Young providing DOP duties, the movie was always going to look good. The visuals of the lone spacecraft eerily looming just above the ground provide a stark silence in its imagery, later to be surrounded by gloomy mist. Much of the movie, in fact, is bathed in gloomy colours and lighting (thanks again Mr. Villeneuve) and a washed out canvas to match the sombre atmosphere and performances. The alien species provide a different look at our extra-terrestrial friends (hopefully friends) and the ink images were a nice idea, as opposed to simply space grunting.
Beginning as a cerebral slow burning affair, the light went out around the second act and never really burned brighter than a flicker. Arrival looked good and had a solid premise, but gave way to more ethereal themes and strands that belied the movie’s original potential. Certainly not the worst sci-fi movie of recent years, but certainly not the best either. A movie asking if we knew our future, would be change it? Great idea, for me, could’ve been executed with greater impact.
What’s “heptapod” for disappointing?
February 28th 2017