Arrival makes contact with mediocrity


Promotional photo for the movie “Arrival”.

Somewhere in a field in Montana, fog surrounds an anchored alien ship. A military encampment is settled off in the distance for surveillance and observation under the big sky. Amy Adams, playing a revered multi-linguist, finds herself attempting to talk and understand an extra terrestrial language. She is the alien whisperer.

Besides that, the plot of “Arrival” has no attempt to stray away from typical sci-fi stories like “Interstellar” (2014) and “Gravity” (2013). The storyline finds itself touching down somewhere between ordinary and faintly charming.

Hold on, “Independence Day” (1996) and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) have made contact.

Director Denis Villeneuve, who was also responsible for “Prisoners” (2013) and “Sicario” (2015), finds a way to draw the audience in slowly, waiting for something monumental to happen. But after spending two hours watching Amy Adams interpret an alien alphabet with a white board, at least make the message worthwhile and not fizzle out when the screen fades to black.

Aside from the storyline being attached to mediocrity, the stellar acting performances of Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner give the film its magnetism. The two truly keep the flick afloat by working together as scientist and linguist taking stern orders from Forest Whitaker to figure out exactly why alien life forms have come to earth.

The simplicity of the vertically oblong UFO and the minimalism of the CGI aesthetics was another trait of “Arrival” that worked well. Whereas other space-time films lean so much on stunning visuals, “Arrival” relied more the human emotion of language and dialect in a empty black room of an alien ship that resembles a movie theatre.

With Adams playing the protagonist roll so well, struggling with her own faults as she attempts to connect with the aliens, “Arrival” is pulled away from the question of space and extra terrestrials and focuses on human perception and social communication. Is that a good thing? I think the question alone deserves three out of five stars.

Matthew Manfredi can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.