Along with Jeff Nichols (more on him later in this list), Denis Villeneuve is fast becoming another of my favorite directors. I have to admit I wasn't expecting a science fiction outing from him after Prisoners and Sicario, but I'm sure glad he made one.
Arrival is everything you might want from some smart, character driven, high concept science fiction.
Adapted from a short story by Ted Chiang the film tells the story of what happens when a dozen mysterious alien craft descend on Earth and attempt to communicate with us.
This is not a bombastic, summer blockbuster, style of alien invasion movie. The narrative here is all about the characters, principally Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner as two of the many scientists tasked with trying to talk to the visitors.
Some rather brilliantly subtle cinematography by Bradford Young manages to be both sweeping and intimate at the same time. The story may have implications for the entire planet, but you get wrapped up in the human story centered on Adams. The camera clings to the characters when it needs to too, while the filmmakers show a marvelous touch with negative space when pulling out.
The tension is ratcheted up by the unknowns of what is, or is not, happening at the other sites, as different countries try different methods of communication. Invariably, as you would always fear when human beings are involved, fear starts to take over, and the military starts to exhibit some mighty itchy trigger fingers.
If you have read the original source, the 'twist' as it were won't surprise, and I won't spoil it here. However I was impressed by how well they blended it into the narrative arc. Revealing it to the audience at just the right moment.
I always tend to appreciate well executed, and high concept, science fiction, so it should be no surprise that this is one of my favorite movies of the year.