If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?
Villeneuve first popped up on my radar with Prisoners and each new film has only excited me more. With a litany of great films, Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and now Arrival, Villeneuve has established himself as a great visual stylist and also a director capable of getting great performances from his actors. He’s also proven himself capable of executing a number of genres perfectly while also elevating his films above their particular genres. With Arrival, he’s knocked another out of the park: the smart, highly conceptual sci-fi film. This is a film elevated by a lot of elements. The cast is excellent and they’re all fine in their roles, some of them, like Adams, more than fine. The CGI elements here are worthy of particular note. Villeneuve uses the CGI to create extremely vivid environments and aliens and, as fantastical as the ships and their inhabitants are, they feel absolutely real and solid. The aliens themselves are startlingly unique, as different from us as any real aliens would probably be, but they feel like real organic beings, even unique characters. But it’s the script and its extreme headiness that really elevates that film. The movie really breaks down some concepts in a really interesting way. The issue of communication is handled in a really fascinating way, but it’s when the film gets into the realm of time that it becomes genuinely breathtaking and incredibly thought provoking. It’s thought provoking on the level of the final concept of the film being kind of brain breaking; it’s wonderful to try to wrap your brain around something that you can’t really conceptualize. But it also succeeds on a quite powerful emotional level; the final scene of the film is really compelling in what it’s saying about the way we should live our lives and the final line of the film is one I really haven’t been able to stop thinking about in the days since I saw this film. I walked out of the film with my mind kind of reeling, trying to think about everything the film posits and how it would change everything if it were true. It feels like the kind of genuine breakthrough that a future generation might have, one that puts it on a plane of being we can’t even really contemplate in much the same way as a person from 500 years ago wouldn’t be able to understand a tablet or a smartphone. Who knows, it could be closer than that? Innovation and experimentation have sped up tremendously; regardless, this is a film that really fires the imagination and the soul – the central theoretical leap of the film is one that challenges the brain to conceptualize perception and challenges the soul to understand the experience of it. It’s just a wonderful movie, subdued, quiet and ultimately truly profound. 4 stars.
tl;dr – thought-provoking, beautiful and emotional film has astounding special effects, brilliant performances and a genuinely profound and challenging screenplay. 4 stars.