Arrival Movie Review


I wanted to show a picture of the aliens and make an Addams Family joke (cause they look like Thing), but noooooooo!

"If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?"

Most people don't notice it very often, but the musical score of a film can be the difference between an average cinematic experience, and a memorable one. The timing and feel of the score can elicit an emotional response that stays with you for the rest of your life. I could bring up classic scores all day, but I'd rather mention a few that had the opposite effect on me.

Come to think of it, there's only one movie that had a soundtrack that was so annoying that it ruined the entire thing for me; Sucker Punch. An over-blaring soundtrack imposed over some insane action sequences is a sensory overloaded gimmick that I don't appreciate very often. I wonder just how much of my opinion on that film would have changed, if only that had been handled properly. Thankfully, this review's headliner doesn't have that problem. Its score is overwhelming in a positive way.


From the first second of hearing this film's musical score from Johan Johannsson (Sicario), I knew that I was going to see something special. I instantly connected to an emotional sense of sentimentality, that I only occasionally notice in movies from time to time. Off the top of my head, 2014's Interstellar had the same type of impact on me with Hans Zimmer's (The Dark Knight) powerful compositions. I sometimes fall into a rut when trying to describe my feelings towards a particular film, and Arrival is probably one of the most difficult attempts that I've had so far as a writer.

I felt this movie, in ways that are easier to understand in thought, than on paper. The previews only partially conveyed the intelligence behind this picture. Arrival is made to look like a realistic vision of an alien encounter, but at its soul, this film is about us and our connections to each other's memories and feelings. There's plenty of alien stuff to be sure, however, the meaning behind them is deeper than just some Independence Day (1996) pop action. For a film that gets most of it surface influences from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Contact (1997), you'd think that there would be little positive to say and normally you'd be right, but no. Not this time. After all of the alien "invasion" films that I've seen in my life, this one had the ability to keep me in suspense from beginning to end.

Johannsson's score is the film's emotional glue, but plenty of other factors make Arrival so damn remarkable as well. Denis Villeneuve's (Prisoners) brilliant direction and script assistance, the cinematography and visuals, and the genuine performances of its actors, all piece together this affecting achievement. Amy Adams (Man of Steel) is so convincing in her role, that her feelings became my feelings. She made me go on her character's journey with her.

I think that Adams might've even given a stronger performance than Jodie Foster's in Contact (my favorite of her roles). Jeremy Renner (American Hustle) gets to show his softer side as an actor, and it works. After seeing him play a superhero so much lately, I honestly forgot how much range this guy has. Forest Whitaker (Battlefield Earth) is also very subdued in his part. I can relate to all of them, because when things are weighing heavily on my mind (like an alien invasion), I also become more somber and contemplative. The story deals with the whole world's reactions to the events, but overall, everything is up close and personal. That makes for good drama that deserves recognition.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Arrival

The Good- You seeing Arrival

The Bad- You not seeing Arrival

The Ugly- You disrespecting Arrival because you didn't understand it. (some blogs be hatin)

Final Thoughts

There's a lot more that I could say about this wonderful film, but it's better seeing it than actually hearing about it. If it's powerful enough to fill this guy's eyes with tears by the end, then you might need some tissues yourself. Don't expect Arrival to be some big dumb ass-kicking alien action blockbuster, instead expect something much smaller and intimate, yet substantially profound. This is one of the year's best!
Rating- 9 out of 10

Arrival (2016)
PG-13 | 1h 56min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi | 11 November 2016 (USA)
A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (based on the story "Story of Your Life" written by)
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker