Arrival

aFirst off, I want to say that I did like this movie. It’s got a tight story, stunning cinematography and trippy sci-fi concepts. And I cried. Boy, that ending did it for me.

But, still, I’m kind of amazed at how much Arrival references other films.

For example, our hero, Louise (Amy Adams) is a scientist who is well respected in a narrow field of study, who is not in a relationship, and who has unresolved issues about a dead family member. All of these things could be said about Jodie Foster’s character in Contact, or Jennifer Connelly’s character in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Then when you add a sometimes helpful, sometimes antagonistic male character for her to play off of, the similarities increase. After the aliens make contact in the enigmatic way they do in these kinds of films, Adams is whisked away from her simple, boring life into a whirlwind of scientific activity, with pressure from all sides to MAKE CONTACT.

The aliens’ ships are simple, featureless crafts that simply hover above the ground in locations around the globe. (Independence Day, anyone?) Once every 18 hours, the ship in Montana opens up and our intrepid band can use some crazy artificial gravity to walk up to a conversation room. (This stuff felt a lot like the space scenes in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

Unlike TDTESS, wherein the alien just knows English, or Contact, where they’re simply dealing with a transmission, Louise is in a room with (freaky looking) aliens on the other side of the glass. (Reminiscent of the finale of The Abyss.) Half the movie is her efforts to understand their language–and get them to understand English–to the point where she can ask the simplest of questions: “Why are you here?”

I won’t spoil the answer to that question. Astonishingly, it was an idea I’d never run across.

With some great supporting performances by Jeremy Renner, Forrest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma (Tzi Ma!) this is definitely a film worth spending some time with.

 

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