**The following is an in-depth review of “Arrival” and does contain spoilers**
Alien invasion movies are a Hollywood staple. From 1927’s “Metropolis” to 1953’s “War of the Worlds” and 1996’s “Independence Day” moviegoers seem fascinated with the idea of being visited by visitors from other planets. Often those visits are hostile – as those noted before – but Hollywood has also given us some great movies about benign visitors from the stars like “Starman,” “E.T.” and “Cocoon.”
“Arrival” is the latest major motion picture to take a pass at what a possible invasion by extraterrestrials might look like.
At first, “Arrival” starts out very much like “Independence Day” with several large ships arriving on Earth and strategically placing themselves around the globe. The film takes almost no time in getting to this, introducing the invasion fleet almost immediately after introducing Louise – the film’s protagonist – played by Amy Adams.
Louise is a university linguistics professor who is sought out by the government after the aliens arrived on Earth to help learn how to communicate with the visitors and discern why they’re here. Along with Ian Donnelly – another linguist the Army recruited to help her, played by Jeremy Renner – Louise learns how to decode and translate the aliens’ non-linear written language.
The plot to the film is pretty thin, and there lies the real problem with the movie. There isn’t enough story to actually fill the 116 minute run time. It’s, for the most part, two hours of linguists translating a language, and that’s boring.
The film has a wonderful atmosphere, created by masterful cinematography and a great cast. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of old M. Night Shyamalan films. In most scenes, there is little to no music and the dialogue is spoken in very quiet tones. This is interesting and it creates a much more realistic atmosphere. The audience doesn’t feel like they’re watching a film, but that they’re actually looking in on the lives of real people.
The most interesting thing about the movie is the nature of the aliens, dubbed Heptapods by the humans because they walk on seven legs. The Heptapods are a non-linear race. They write in a series of circles which have no beginning or end and they perceive time in a non-linear way as well. They experience past, present and future all at the same time.
There is a lot of treasure buried in this movie. Unfortunately, it’s buried deep down. There’s a lot of baggage the audience has to wade through to get to the treasure, and a lot of the treasure is probably lost on the general audience anyway who isn’t looking at things like lighting, cinematography and sound editing.
“Arrival” is doing really well at the box office and has so far been a big hit with critics, so don’t be surprised if it does end up being nominated for some Academy Awards. It’s a beauty to look at, all the actors turn in great performances, the movie is just really boring.
“Arrival” currently holds a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.