MOVIE REVIEW: Arrival (2017)

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I must admit, I’m such a big fan of La La Land even before it hit local scenes, that I almost forgot that there are other interesting movies coming to theaters thereon. When Damien Chazelle’s followup to Whiplash was finally shown in the cinemas just last month, I managed to watch it 11 times as if magic has already lured me to return again and again. The musical romantic drama film is indeed captivating. The songs stuck in my head, its visual spectacle as awesome as the first time. Arrival, on the other hand, is a different case. Despite prior critical acclaims, I was not as excited to see it, simply because “alien invasion” sounds too worn-out for me. Much to my surprise, I had no idea that Arrival is the kind of movie that will make me forget La La Land (and all of the 11 times I saw it), or any other recent favorite for that matter.

In Arrival, the help of linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is sought by the military when twelve seedpod-shaped spaceships suddenly appeared on random location across the Earth. She is teamed up with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and they station at the nearest landing site in Montana. As supervised by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) and CIA Agent Halpern (Michael Sthulbarg), their goal is to determine what the aliens want. Adams showcases a character to be hold onto and to be cared for, with Renner’s comforting personality on the side.

Director Dennis Villeneuve proves yet again that he has the knack in his craft, more evident as ever after Enemy and Sicario (both of which are outstanding as well). Based on the short story, Story of your Life by Ted Chiang, Arrival is adapted to screen by Eric Heisserer who highlighted the importance of visual cues and actions to give hints and plant seeds that are to be harvested as the story progresses. What the two created in Arrival is a movie to be remembered, not as an alien movie but as one good example of how to break the stereotype in alien sci-fi subgenre. This time around, it is not about the usual destructive nature of close encounters with aliens. The key word here is communication. For guman beings or otherwise, communication is the best tool to make things possible and workable. But one big question remains: is it really the intention of the large spider-like seven-legged aliens they referred to as heptapods?

This all goes back to the very start of the movie. The introduction is a fascinating prelude to its ending piece inasmuch as this same ending is a riveting starting point that could lead back to the movie’s first few minutes. Focus is much needed to fully comprehend what the story is all about. It is indeed a simple story that tackles various personal issues including fear of the unknown and facing consequences. A repeat viewing could also work wonders in filling in the gaps that would appear as though intended to make the audience crave for more. Why are they here? Why are we all here?

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