BFI London Film Festival Reviews

BFI London Film Festival: Arrival – Review

Science Fiction has two facets of being: The cheesy, dramatic, world-ending version and the intellectual transcendent version. While the former does have it’s charm and, sometimes, you can’t help but want Idris Elba to scream about cancelling the apocalyptic or Tom Cruise literally running to stop aliens from invading earth, the latter is where the soul of the genre is. A movie that works with your emotions, plays with your heart, and allows you immerses you into the humanity of it all is truly the most magnificent of them all.

For Denis Villeneuve, he has crafted an absolutely stunning, utterly captivating, and poetic alien invasion movie that focuses on the finer strings of humanity as they ebb against a foreign other-worldly element.
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Starring Amy Adams in her best performance to date, the film revolves around an invasion UFOs in the shape of slender discs that have mysteriously cropped up across the globe. With the whole world in panic, different teams in different countries are looking into the phenomenon. In America, they enlist linguist Louise Banks and theoretical scientist Ian Donnelly to help decipher their language and meaning. However, with increasing pressure from all allies, Banks discovers a great purpose for the aliens and is soon thrown into jeopardy.

While I can’t say that the semantics of the film are completely original, there are pangs of Interstellar roaming around in here, the whole premise and execution are equivocally sublime and unique that you can’t help but fall desperately in love with the movie. Arrival, utilising astonishing imagery and a completely invigorating theme that soulfully whisks you into this brooding and beautiful sci-fi film, is a cinematic triumphant. Through the moody cinematography of Bradford Young to the indelible and bewitching score by Johan Johannsson, Arrival is a complex and emotive piece that is conducted with great wonder by Villeneuve.

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Amy Adams has grown a long way from her teenage and princess roles. As Banks, admittedly stuck in a man driven operation trying to urge the men to not nuke every goddamn thing in site, Adams is fiercely strong and yet has sources of pain, solace, and sadness. Each component of her character is stirringly realised by Adams’ gorgeous talent. She is simply magnificent and elevates into one of this year’s finest characters. Opposing her is Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly who equally gifts a solid performance and matches her character with great chemistry. However, his role is somewhat brushed aside, perhaps not consciously,  because Adams and her character Banks are completely absorbing.

Without giving anything away, this is perhaps my favourite depiction of aliens and the tones, both in image and in story, are beguiling. Villeneuve has to be  admired for his consistency in adapting his breath-taking imagery into different and alluring stories. With Arrival, he has hit note perfectly, spiraling around us a captivating tale. Certainly the greatest alien invasion movie yet, Arrival is the language of humanity, survival, and complete understanding.

Arrival premieres at the BFI London Film Festival on Monday 10th.

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