With the Oscars fast approaching, nominees for Best Picture were announced, and some very surprising candidates made the list. Among them was Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, the only science-fiction picture nominated. The ethereal ode to the likes of Close Encounters is in a position to do what sci-fi and horror rarely do, and win the Big One.
Amy Adams plays a linguist and college professor drafted by the government to figure out how to talk to the mysterious visitors who defy our puny Earth physics. She also struggles with memories of her only daughter who died from cancer (memories which a play a larger role as the narrative unfolds). Jeremy Renner is a scientist and one of her team members, plus something more.
Arrival is one surreal film and a deeply spiritual one that seeks to plumb the depths of human understanding, simultaneously elevating it and turning it on its ear.
There are elements at play that will be familiar to anyone who has been a genre fan for a long time, or if you have followed Villeneuve’s career up to now. The whole movie feels like a reworking of his 2013 picture Enemy (with Jake Gyllenhaal). That film was a psychological play on the perception of reality and identity.
In Arrival, the perspective of time and space is played with to the point you can’t tell the real course of events after a while. These aliens have timey-wimey powers that would make Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan envious.
Villeneuve renders a thought-provoking, eclectic vision that leaves the viewer with more questions than answers, but it will stay with you long after the final frame.
Also starring Forest Whitaker with a script by horror vet Eric Heisserer (Lights Out, 2011’s The Thing, 2010‘s remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street), it’s back in limited release leading up to the Academy Awards, and now out on Blu-ray.
Give it a watch and don’t be surprised if it wins.