For Reel

Arrival (2016)
November 27, 2016, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Denis Villeneuve
4 Stars
arrivalThe science fiction genre has a particular skill in finding harmony between the personal and the operatic. While the scope of their narratives can have interplanetary consequences, often they are deeply rooted in the personal stakes of a protagonist who is trying to find their footing in a world that only continues to open up and flaunt its mysteries. Denis Villeneuve dramatizes this dynamic more skillfully than the messy grandiosity of Interstellar, even if the final act of Arrival seems to contract rather than expand (despite the implications, there is a tidiness in the way that it resolves the film’s biggest puzzle). The room in which Amy Adams’ linguist communicates with the visitors resembles an enormous movie screen—as she approaches the barrier that separates her from the aliens, one recalls the boy touching the screen in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona—which reveals Villeneuve’s stakes in the material. Just as the film suggestions that language opens up new ways of perceiving the world, so too can time collapse on itself in the cinema, with the duration of shots, cross-cutting, and flashbacks creating a language in which one can meditate on their place in the world in radically new ways.