The first two-thirds of Arrival suggest that Denis Villeneuve’s new sci-fi epic might be a genre masterpiece. Certainly, its premise—which revolves around linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and scientist Ian Donnelly’s (Jeremy Renner) efforts to learn how to communicate with the aliens that have landed on Earth for mysterious reasons—is like little that has been seen before in the annals of cinematic science-fiction, with its procedural-like emphasis on… learning a foreign language. The sense of tingling anticipation Villeneuve creates as the scientists try to make their first contact with the aliens is vivid enough to remind one of why it is they love movies: Every frame seems to tremble with the possibility of being shown new sights and wonders, of being invited to explore a brand new world. Arrival’s third act, however, veers into New Age-y territory, with a narrative twist that, depending on your point-of-view, is either profoundly moving or monumentally cheesy. There’s no doubt about Villeneuve’s open-hearted sincerity, however, and even if the sci-fi elements ultimately get shorter shrift than some might prefer, the broader human and philosophical implications brought up by this film are bound to linger.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 1.