His latest effort, Arrival, goes one step further by showing his ability to handle large-scale science fiction while not giving in to more commercial instincts. In fact, Villeneuve’s fourth English-language film is exactly the kind of thoughtful and thought-provoking genre product that serves as an ideal antidote to the louder, more multiplex-oriented fare that tends to dominate cinema screens worldwide.
Based on Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life and adapted for the screen by Eric Heisserer (Lights Out), Arrival is a first-contact story that focuses on a close encounter from a rarely seen vantage point: communication. The main character, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is a linguist recruited by the Pentagon to figure out how to establish a dialogue with visitors from another world when twelve alien vessels appear in various places all over the world. With the assistance of mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise tries to understand the visitors’ purpose before other governments might choose a less peaceful approach, all while dealing with the remnants of a personal tragedy.
Challenging though it may prove to a more impatient breed of viewers due to its lack of explosions and jingoism (a Michael Bay film this is not), Arrival is a thoroughly entertaining experience. The exploration of language boundaries is accompanied by stunning, blockbuster-worthy visuals (which Villeneuve was able to pull off on a budget that would barely cover the cast salaries of the average tentpole movie), a healthy dose of humour (the two aliens Louise interacts with are affectionately nicknamed Abbott and Costello) and a well-executed science fiction trope that adds more meaning to the bigger picture (although the details are best left for the audience to discover).
Exquisitely crafted and filled with love for the genre, the film does almost veer into more traditional Hollywood territory in the third act, but Villeneuve keeps it grounded in a very real – and occasionally frightening – world that is not that far removed from our own (the obvious reference point, thematically, is the original The Day the Earth Stood Still). He’s also masterfully assisted by Amy Adams, whose nuanced and emotionally demanding performance shows that her contributions to science fiction can – and hopefully will continue to – stretch beyond playing Lois Lane.
|Arrival film review
|Various Locations | MAP
|Leicester Square (underground)
10 Nov 16 – 10 Jan 17, Times vary
|£determined by cinema
|Click here for more details