The latest film by up and coming director Denis Villeneuve, who is already being classed as one of the greats by grasping audience’s attention with his last three thrilling American features: Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario, as well as now being given the reins for the sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. This film gives audiences the chance to check how Villeneuve handles the science fiction genre and spoiler alert: he does a pretty fine job.
Arrival is one of the most anticipated films of the year for many, including myself, and whilst the film is good, it isn’t great, or at least in my opinion. All the technical elements of the film are top-notch. As expected by now, Denis Villeneuve does a terrific job composing the film, he knows how to perfectly encapsulate a tense scene, with homages to that of Steven Spielberg within the first act of the film due to hiding the science fiction elements until the grand wide shot of the UFO and soon having confrontations with the aliens that has strong similarities to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Which brings me to the cinematography, whilst Bradford Young did have some breathtaking and visually engaging shots, to me Roger Deakins’ absence was felt throughout the film, as the director and cinematographer combo had worked previously together on Prisoners and Sicario. Often some of shots felt very uninspired after the first act of the film, and some of the stylistic focus of certain shots did not work for me.
The film’s score often sets a beautifully tense atmosphere that gives off an impending feeling of fear as to what may come with a similar intensity that is crafted by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work on Sicario’s score.
The films narrative is intriguing as Linguistics professor Amy Adams leads a team to help find out exactly what these aliens want in a slow, tense and well crafted first two acts. However where the film begins to falter is the final act of the film, which couldn’t hold my suspension of disbelief any longer. Although it is most likely a part of the short story the film is adapted from which I have not read, the final act of the film tried very hard to seem clever but failed in my eyes and just felt like lazy storytelling. The film began to just tell the audience what is happening, quite literally, rather than show it like it would at the start of the film. What began as a very interesting and intelligent science fiction device, in the third act soon became simply a plot device to keep things going forward, which I just wasn’t much of a fan of as everything began to fit perfectly into place.
Arrival isn’t as good as I had hoped it would be, but I could definitely see why a lot of people are giving it excellent reviews. However to me what stopped this film from being a subtle, emotional science fiction classic that oozes with tension as the audience eagerly watches everything unravel is the disappointing third act, where the film takes itself a bit too seriously in contrast to the sci-fi elements that are occurring. Personally, I would rank this at the bottom of Villeneuve’s previous work, but compared to other directors who I have a film ranked at the bottom of their work, not all of them will most likely get nominated for Academy Awards.
3 out of 5