February 14, 2017

Arrival (2016)

Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Remember when Amy Adams was Hollywood's new It Girl? She was in everything and got Oscar nominations for all of them, and people went to movies because she was in them and we respected her decisions.

But then we sat through Trouble With the Curve. And Man of Steel. And suddenly, people [ME] started to doubt Amy's choices. We felt we could no longer trust her to lead us to quality movies.

Then we watched Arrival and were like, "Amy, we're sorry we doubted you!"

This movie is unexpectedly awesome. Unexpected, because in my (admittedly limited) experience with sci-fi, it often falls into one of two camps: action-packed and full of explosives (like Guardians of the Galaxy or the Star Trek movies), or creepy/scary where aliens try to suck out our organs or something. And for some reason, the aliens always look exactly like humans, but with extra eyes or arms. Oh, and they can always speak English somehow.

Arrival is different on every count. It is an unexpected look at extraterrestrial life and how it reflects our culture. It is not scary, it is not funny, and it has very little action. Instead, it is a measured - and often sad - look at humans and the lives we lead. The presence of "the other," while central to the plot, isn't actually the point of the movie at all. They are simply there to provide us insight into what we already are and have. It's brilliant.

It's difficult to discuss the movie any further without spoiling the whole thing, so I'll just say this: it is rare to find a movie that is thoughtful, well acted, and not about a historical event. This movie isn't targeting a certain demographic or appealing to the masses with a simple story and special effects. It is for everyone and no one, both at the same time. The writer of this story obviously had a message to tell and didn't water it down for mass appeal. And for that, I give the utmost respect.

Final word: Like Contact. But better. And shorter.

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