STARS: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve
GENRE: Sci-Fi / Drama
Here's the deal. If you don't catch onto the "twist" in Arrival (and we're not talking Chubby Checker), you'll likely be confused throughout most of the movie. I caught onto it late, near the end, realizing that if I saw the film again, I'd get a lot more out of it. (Is it just a ploy to get you to buy another ticket?) A film is always more enjoyable when you know what's going on. Arrival (with an Oscar nomination for Best Picture) is like life, in that sense. You feel your way through it, and at the end you look back and see just where it was you went wrong. But unlike the movies, there are no do-overs. So son, you're going to have to feel your way through it on your own, the way we all did. For if I revealed the twist, it would be a SPOILER!
But hey, it's Amy Adams. I'd like to be able to say I've never seen an Amy Adams movie I didn't like, but a more accurate statement would be I've never seen Amy Adams in a film where I didn't like watching her.
Amy plays Louise, a noted linguistics professor whose services are recruited by the army when a dozen big UFOs--that look like gigantic cucumbers standing on end--land at various sites around the globe. Louise has the best chance to communicate with the aliens inside, who look kinda like big octopi (octopuses?) wearing burkas. When she and her team make contact with the "heptapods," as they are being called, Louise begins to slowly decipher their language, which consists visually of something looking like circular shaped Rorschach blots. Throughout the film, Louise is seeing dream images of her with her daughter, who succumbs to disease and dies in her teens.
What's it all mean? Why are the aliens here, and what are they trying to tell us? It has something to do with the nature of time. In the end, there's a message about cooperation among nations, and how we are often too quick to reject what we don't understand, rather than going the extra mile to learn to really communicate.
But Arrival is so sloooow throughout the first half. On the other hand, it's a lot more cerebral than your average earth-versus-aliens movie. There is much food for thought. And the question that looms large--like a huge spaceship sitting in a field--is if you had your life to live over again...knowing how it would turn out...all the shit and all the sorrow, along with all the joy and all the love...would you go along for that same ride again? Arrival is telling us: don't be so hasty as to automatically say no.
At the end of Arrival, I leaned towards Tim and whispered, "Lucy, you've got some 'splaining to do!" I admit it. I was totally lost. Bored. And completely confused by this "sensitive" sci-fi saga. Maybe, if there'd been a subtitle on the poster that read: "Time isn't what you think it is...", I would've been able to grasp what the hell this movie was about. However, I did learn one important lesson; I now know why I don't enjoy futuristic films. They make me feel extremely stoopid!
That being said, I was also annoyed at how under-used Forest Whittaker (The Last King Of Scotland) was. He's such a great actor and his role here, as some bigwig general, is miniscule at best. The same could be said for Michael Stuhlbarg who plays a nervous Agent Halpern. (Stuhlbarg was absolutely brilliant as gangster Arnold Rothstein in the TV series "Boardwalk Empire.")
If I had to say something positive about Arrival, I'd give high marks to the graphics. (Wonder how these aliens would have said "Good job!"in their ink blotty language?) The visual and special effects guys must have a had field day. I was also relieved that the aliens didn't resemble E.T. or any of those other bug-eyed knock-offs. Still, if my two cents is worth anything, I'd avoid this befuddling film!