Review: Arrival

It appears that this movie has boarded quite a massive hype train. Nearly every reviewer, website, and respectable friend has recommended this movie. Now there’s been quite a few movies this year alone that received a similar amount of praise that ended up disappointing me once I left the theaters. Arrival was not one of those movies.


Arrival may very well be one of the only few movies this year that I would call “an experience”. There’s a lot of familiar territory that it treads, but it is unique in its execution.


Everyone in the movie does well. Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker are all excellent in their performances. Considering all of their characters are supposed to be normal people, I can’t say that any of the acting was truly dynamic or exciting, but that would only be a complaint if the rest of the movie wasn’t good.


The events in this movie all circulate around alien ships landing on earth, but the true focus of the story is on Amy Adams’s character. Hence, if anyone is hoping this will have some sort of crazy sci-fi laser explosion fest, you will be disappointed. Instead, the film, aside from being character driven, focuses on many things alien-type movies don’t: diplomatic relationships between countries, and the science and protocol that commences when these types of things happen. It made the movie much more intriguing than exciting, though this movie certainly has its riveting moments.




The themes explored in this film were explored interestingly without coming across as preachy (except for maybe one moment). But the theme I saw the most vividly was how humans deal with the unknown and ambiguous. The environment that our characters are in, and the characters themselves, all reveal the often erratic nature of humanity whenever faced with something they have never seen before. Considering the current atmosphere of our politics, I think that this movie is humorously well-timed.


The grim tone of this movie is consistent and seeps through the lighting, colors, acting, and cinematography. The soundtrack is often unique and was successful at reinforcing the eery feeling of this movie. It did so without shoving the eeriness in your face.


This movie also has this inescapable feeling of distance. This is mainly relayed through Amy Adam’s performance, but many of the shots blur out the background, pushing the viewer emotionally away from some of the characters.


Here’s the obligatory slow warning: this movie can be “slow” at times (which is usually a word people use for movies that relay events through picture, dialogue, music, and acting; rather than fight sequences or comedy). It’s the kind of slow where a decrepit old man that was sitting in front of me decided he would rather whip out his phone, at full brightness, to check ESPN.




Arrival is a fantastic movie that utilizes its craft exceptionally. The story is fascinating and unique, the acting is great throughout, and it even provides enough entertainment to capture anyone but the most distractive of movie-goers. If you are looking for a unique experience, then go see this movie right now; it’s about time that an exceptional movie got its money back at the box office.

9 out of 10

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