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First Watch: Arrival

Coming from the director of Sicario and Prisoners, Arrival is yet another masterstroke delivered by the French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. He announces his ‘arrival’ into the genre in style and leaves the audience spellbound at so many different levels. Based on the novella Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, the film was released in November 2016. It escaped my list for a long while but when I finally watched it, I was simply delighted with the intensely mysterious and poignant plot of the film.

The film follows the fearless and resourceful linguistics expert Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who has been left grief-stricken following the loss her only daughter, Hannah. It all begins with a number of alien crafts arriving at the Earth’s surface and in the human efforts to communicate with the aliens; Dr. Banks comes to the forefront, with Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker taking up supporting roles.

The trailer makes it seem like an attempt at a Nolan-esque film but it is so much more than that. Sure, it is a sci-fi, but the pouring affection of a mother, the resentfulness of a teenager, the emotions of a daughter deserted by her father and a tubful of other such moments makes it stand out in the genre. Without delving into the deep concepts this film deals with, some of which are too complex to be fully comprehended, one can still appreciate the sci-fi plot devices used that make perfect sense in the context of the film. The best aspect of the film is its sound effects which are hypnotic at times. Sound editor Sylvian Bellemare does a wonderful job, making her worthy of the Oscar she secured, while the visual effects are not too expressive.

As expected, Amy Adams brilliantly portrays her character who treads through a number of conflicting emotions like indifference, affection, pessimism, curiosity and disbelief. She is confident but, at the same time, not too overpowering to be deemed arrogant. You are compelled to root for her because of the way she makes you believe that she deserves the sympathy whilst not really wanting it due to the perfection with which she goes about accomplishing her goals.

Denis Villeneuve’s amazing job of keeping you at the edge of your seat throughout the film reveals information in bits and just at the right moments to keep you gripped and full of expectations. In other words, whenever it seems that the plot is becoming a little too predictable, a tiny chunk of new information is thrown your way and suddenly catches you off guard.

In the hindsight, this movie also unravels with the political turmoil that could occur in a hypothetical pre-apocalyptic world.  In an interview with The Verge, Denis Villeneuve confessed “People, it seems, don’t evolve very quickly.” I felt dumbfounded and emotional simultaneously. This is a film that left me wanting for more.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: Amy Adams, arrival, Denis Villeneuve, Film Review, First watch, Paramount Pictures

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