Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has quickly risen through the ranks in Hollywood thanks to his work on acclaimed dramas such as Prisoners and Sicario. He’s now prepared to make the jump to the genre of sci-fi. Villeneuve is calling the shots on next year’s Blade Runner 2, but before then he has Arrival coming out this fall. A first contact piece, the film revolves around linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who is brought in to determine whether alien visitors are friend or foe before it’s too late. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whittaker are in key supporting roles.
Paramount unveiled the first trailer for Arrival (watch it above) back in August, and the preview was well-received by cinephiles eager to see what Villeneuve does next. The director’s sharp handle on stunning visuals (almost Kubrikian in a sense) was teased in the footage, as was a timely and necessary narrative of the peoples of the world working together to find the proper manner to deal with this issue. All of Villeneuve’s works have earned widespread praise, so the hope is that Arrival can continue his hot streak and illustrate his prowess in genre entertainment.
The film premiered during the Venice Film Festival, and some critics reviews are now making their way online. We have collected some SPOILER FREE excerpts for your reading convenience. Those who are interested in reading the full reviews ahead of time can do so by clicking the corresponding links included with each excerpt below.
Variety – Owen Gleiberman
At its best, Arrival has an eerie grandeur, but if the film starts off as neo-Spielberg, it ends up as neo-Christopher Nolan meets neo-Terrence Malick — it turns into an ersatz mind-bender. You feel like you’ve had a close encounter with what might have been an amazing movie, but not actual contact.
The Wrap – Alfonso Duralde
If Arrival falls short in any way, it’s in a third-act pivot that attempts to appeal to the heart as much as to the head. Louise’s personal story is a powerful one, and the film never betrays this fascinating character, but it has so successfully created such a cool and detached vibe that it’s a bit jarring to get a last-minute play for the emotions. It’s not impossible to give audiences both a puzzle-box narrative and an exploration of life choices and what it means to be human, but the balance just doesn’t play here.
The Telegraph – Robbie Collin
The time to pull this stuff apart probably isn’t two months before Arrival’s UK release, so let’s just say the food for thought on offer here is Michelin-star-worthy. It turns an already beautiful, provocative allegory into the kind of science-fiction that can bump your whole worldview off balance. This is riveting, dizzying stuff from Villeneuve, and another early peak in a thunderously exciting year at the Venice Film Festival.
THR – David Rooney
How refreshing to watch an alien contact movie in which no cities are destroyed or monuments toppled, and no adversarial squabbling distracts the human team from the challenges of their complex interspecies encounter. Anchored by an internalized performance from Amy Adams rich in emotional depth, this is a grownup sci-fi drama that sustains fear and tension while striking affecting chords on love and loss.
Evening Standard – David Sexton
Compellingly made, this is science fiction of substance, which is promising for the forthcoming new Blade Runner — even if, in the end, it takes us back to our own earthbound hopes and sorrows.
Just about all who have seen Arrival at this point are in agreement that the film succeeds in being a heady, intelligent work of modern sci-fi that fits right in Villeneuve’s wheelhouse. The film’s technical merits received high marks, including Bradford Young’s beautiful cinematography and Jóhan Jóhannsson’s minimalistic, yet creepy, musical score. Renner’s earlier claims that Arrival blends the approaches of Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrik seem to have been accurate, as the reviews indicate Villeneuve did a great job combining the awe and wonder of Close Encounters of the Third Kind with something a little more unnerving and unsettling.
Adams’ performance was also cited as one of the movie’s strongest points, as the screenplay by Eric Heisserer gives Louise a compelling, emotionally involving arc that makes good use of the actress’ talents. From the sound of it, Renner and Whittaker have smaller roles, but are fine in their parts. Arrival is Adams’ show all the way, and many will be watching to see if she can score another Oscar nomination for her turn here. Additionally, some viewers will also be pleased to learn that the military aspect of Arrival is pushed to the background in favor of exploring the concepts of alien language, a refreshing change-of-pace for this genre.
If there’s a common criticism of Arrival right now, it’s that the final product has problems balancing its intellectual side with its heart, and some of the reviews made note that not all of the revelations will play well for the audience. It would seem that how much one enjoys Arrival will depend on their willingness to accept certain plot twists along the way, but overall it’s a strong entry in the sci-fi genre and should please moviegoers looking for an alien “invasion” story that bucks the typical blockbuster trends in favor of something more thoughtful and poetic.
Arrival opens in U.S. theaters November 11, 2016.
Sources: Various (see links)