While director Denis Villeneuve (who did Prisoners and Sicario) does a great time of pacing and giving vivid visuals in his newest film, the one downside from Arrival is that it tends to be a tad too smart for its own good.
That is not to say the film is not worth checking out; quite the contrary. The story centers around the arrival of aliens in twelve locations around the world. We spend the majority of the time in location in Montana, where Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) has recruited Scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try to access the situation.
The center of the movie is Banks, played with power and grace only Amy Adams can give. Her character is suffering from a loss (which I will not ruin here) that gives her many flashbacks. Both Renner and Whitaker are good as well in their respected roles.
The visuals are masterful. Of course, when we think of a sci-fi movie, we think of great CGI (which is present here). However, I am talking more of the cinematography, done by Bradford Young (whose previous credits include Pawn Sacrifice, A Most Violent Year, and Selma). It is the visuals that will remind you mainly of other films such as Inception, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind (which this is clearly aspiring to be) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (which is what every sci-fi film aspires to be).
I can’t really mention my qualms with the film without giving away key points, so I will not. All I will say is that, at the end of the film, I was thinking back and could point out a few interesting parts that did not make sense to me.
Parents, the PG-13 rating is just because of swearing. There is no violence or sexuality (despite one character asking another if they want to make a baby, but it ends at that). I only really remember one F bomb, and maybe a few other swears thrown in, but that is it. I would say middle school and up is ok.
What I like most about Arrival is its patience. It takes its time (something 2001 did so well). In most sci-fi films, we can come quickly to the aliens and not just stand back and drink in what we are witnessing as we get there. Once we do get there, the pay off is hopefully rewarding. Arrival is no exception. Like many great films, it is one that will require more than a few viewings.
Overall: Four Stars ****