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Arrival proves to be captivating film, leaves audience with questions

Photo Courtesy of Tribune News Service | The Arrival brings a new approach to an alien encounter.
Photo Courtesy of Tribune News Service | The Arrival brings a new approach to an alien encounter.

‘Arrival’ — starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
8.5 out of 10

By Kaleb Lucero ’18

“Arrival” is first and foremost a thoughtful and contemplative film, using its immersive and human atmosphere to create a quiet, inward facing suspense that grips the audience.

The movie is about humanity’s response to a first contact with a series of foreboding alien craft, which land seemingly randomly throughout the world.

Linguist and professor Louise Banks is approached by the military to translate/establish an understanding of the alien language, and thus begins the journey that this movie takes viewers through.

The great beauty of “Arrival” is how it navigates through the story, at times immersing viewers wholly, and at other times giving them a breath, a chance to think about revelations or mysteries presented in the narrative.

All the while, the film is able to establish a strong sense of realism.

I found that, often, the best scenes were the most quiet ones, the most surreal ones that show human emotion, human wonder and amazement at the events unfolding in the movie.

The characters, all of them, are portrayed as shocked. So often (in other movies) it feels that protagonists are self-aware, or know the plot of the story and are, as we know, just actors. But this feels different, not just in acting, but in writing.

An example is when Louise and Ian, the theoretical physicist assigned to the same team, first visit the aliens’ ship, and Ian runs his hand along the bottom of the vessel. It feels more organic, I should say, this way. It feels like something one might do in such a situation.

Because the nature of the movie is so deep, and because it has so much gravity behind it, these pauses allow thoughts and emotions to sink into the viewer.

The people who made this movie are great at manipulating you at these points.

The exact emotions they want you to feel, you feel. The exact thoughts they want you to think, you think.

This is not only because of the buildup and context they have before these scenes, but also because of the weightiness they have behind each scene and the atmosphere you’re presented with.

While some movies might be overly noisy, constantly bombarding you with action or explosions, and others might be overly presumptuous, believing they’re deserving of such quiet moments, “Arrival” is excellent in that it actually felt like it earned each and every second, silence and all.

In short, “Arrival” is a movie of substance. In fact, it’s so full of substance that the only fault I have with it is that it they had to leave out explanations because they couldn’t fit it into the movie.

There’s a couple of significant exceptions that you’re forced to make, but when I think about it, there’s just no way they could have covered those bases without diluting the movie.

I obviously won’t say what those “bases” are, because, well, they’re spoilers. But I will say that the movie expects you to think about what happens, and doesn’t present you with too many answers. In a large sense, it leaves you to figure out “why” and “how.”

It’s professional, it’s expertly crafted, and it’s an exemplary instance of a thought-provoking movie. There’s so much to dissect and learn from it, both from just an average viewer’s perspective, but also from the perspective of someone interested in the art of story-making.

Despite its near perfect execution, however, it lacks a certain quality that would place among long-remembered classics.

It stands out, to be sure, but it doesn’t pack enough punch to be something that people would be watching 10 years from now. I will say that I strongly recommend it, and that it is highly worthy of anyone’s time to at least see once.   

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