Arrival (2016)

(Video on Demand, February 2017) The last few years have been a boon for fans of cerebral big-budget Science Fiction, and here comes Arrival to continue the streak. As someone who’s quite familiar with Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life short story from which Arrival is based, I can’t say that the film had a lot of conceptual surprises in store. Still, that makes it easier to appreciate what was a difficult writing exercise: adapting a non-linear story of understanding and loss into a film that is, at times, thrilling, majestic, mind-expanding and deeply felt. Adding quite a bit to the short story without betraying its core, Arrival manages to take a borderline-ridiculous concept and boil it down to an intimate story for a woman who couldn’t be farther away from the action-hero ideal. Amy Adams is terrific in the lead role, sympathetically incarnating a brainy scientist abruptly thrust in the middle of a tense first-contact scenario. Arrival does nearly everything very well, but it’s notable in the way it presents an initially-familiar scenario (aliens land!) in a way that feels grounded in reality. By the time we’re in non-linear gravity-shifting mode, the film has earned the right to wow its audience. Most assuredly the best Hollywood Science Fiction film of 2016, Arrival gives a bit of hope back that Hollywood can still make great movies when it wants to. Best of all, it’s another celebrated entry in French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s filmography—and now he’s taking aim at Blade Runner and Dune.

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