Blu-ray/DVD Review: ARRIVAL

A few weeks ago I had the chance to review the Blu-ray release of director Denis Villeneuve's latest film, the sci-fi drama, ARRIVAL.  The film centers around Louise Banks, a linguistics professor, who is tasked with interpreting and communicating with alien life forms after twelve mysterious spaceships appear throughout the world.  ARRIVAL stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.  Though at first glance, this film seems like your typical sci-fi alien movie, it ends up being so much more than that.  If anything, it's social commentary on how the world has become towards those we don't understand.  

Going into ARRIVAL, I was hoping for another badass alien movie, similar to INDEPENDENCE DAY; however, this is not that type of movie.  This movie harbors a lot of sadness and it makes you question A LOT; which isn't to say that's a bad thing, I just wasn't mentally prepared for it. As I mentioned, the film centers around Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as she circumnavigates communication with the aliens that have just recently landed on Earth.  Her story is sad, and we don't just know this because of what we learn throughout the film, but by her facial expressions and demeanor.  She has a heaviness in her heart and it's hard to ignore.  I'm not usually a fan of Adams, but she hit the nail on the head with her portrayal of Louise and I'm surprised she did not get an Oscar nomination.  Also in the film is Jeremy Renner who I'm a fan of and his character, Ian Donnelly, matched up perfectly with Louise Banks.  It was hard not to fall in love with Renner's character and all that he does to help Banks prove to the world that the aliens are here with a message and not to harm us.  It's not often that you see true chemistry in a film, which makes me happy that Adams and Renner had it and were able to work off each other's character's perfectly. 

Other than the acting, what impressed me the most was that the film doesn't require a lot to get it's point across.  90% of the film takes place with Adam's and Renner's characters trying to communicate with the alien in the spaceship.  For a movie that's almost 2 hours long you would think that that would be boring, but it isn't.  I found myself becoming completely enthralled with the story that was unfolding.  Sure, a part of me did want to see a huge fight break out between the aliens and mankind, but as that notion faded away I took in what the film was really all about: acceptance.  Had ARRIVAL been over the top, the overall message wouldn't have been able to get through, so I appreciate how simplistic the whole film was, especially in terms of the art direction.  Speaking of which, I absolutely loved the design of the spaceships and the aliens themselves.  They were both minimalistic in nature and in a way, beautiful to look at. The aliens weren't horrifying but large gray masses that looked like giant hands that were tentacles and the way they communicated with the humans was absolutely breathtaking. 

When the movie finished, I turned to my boyfriend and burst into tears.  I wasn't expecting that type of emotion to hit me so it was just as unexpected to me as it was to him.  As I mentioned, the film deals with acceptance, but it also begs the question, if you knew what was going to happen in the future, would you change your course of action?  For reasons only know to me and a select few, that theme hit me right in the gut and didn't release until days after viewing ARRIVAL.  This movie shows what can happen if we learn to accept people for who they are, without judging them based on their outer appearance or where they came from.  However, it can also show us how scared we are of that which we don't understand.  If that doesn't ring a bell for what we are going through right now in the world, I don't know what will.  As heavy and intense as the theme in this film is, it's one that we all need to hear. 

Overall, I absolutely loved ARRIVAL.  I was mesmerized with the design of the aliens and their form of communication as well as impressed with the performances by both Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.  In the almost 2 hour run time, I felt emotions that very few films are able to elicit from me.  The cinematography is beautiful and the musical score plays in tandem with the story unfolding.  If you are a fan of Denis Villeneuve's other films, such as PRISONERS and SICARIO then I urge you to give ARRIVAL a chance.  Just make sure you have the tissues handy. 

Devastatingly Yours,
Shannon M. 

ARRIVAL is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.