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Rated 3 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Made Me Think
by Richard Jack Smith

Regarding Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, an exciting rollercoaster awaits. Perhaps unoriginality would be the compromise in a lesser film. Not so with Amy Adams conjuring the spell. She plays Dr. Louis Banks, linguist and mother… once upon a time. She lost her daughter to cancer, yet the memories remain fresh. Meanwhile, alien vessels land on Earth, so she assists Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) by establishing communications. Basically, the latter wants to know why these visitors are here. Are they friendly or hostile?  

In my view, trailers can be misleading. They promise the world in a shoebox only to deliver a broken pair of sneakers. That felt true when I saw Contact starring Jodie Foster. Such a novelty could have transcended the tease. Instead, it felt like thirty minutes was lifted from an otherwise long-winded experience. Crucially, Arrival makes little pretence about pacing, while editor Joe Walker carefully manoeuvres each chess piece. Vitally, he makes our job easier by pinpointing the hierarchy. Much depends upon Louise’s ability to understand the alien’s language because one false interpretation could ignite Armageddon. 

Although the footage starts out foggy -- the same way our vision seems obscured during the early morning -- ideas rapidly form. Because the performances veer between subdued and serviceable, the real star happens to be Eric Heisserer (The Conjuring 2), who wrote the screenplay. His concept for Arrival allows intriguing questions to arise. Generally speaking, these landmarks could relate to every human being, sometimes to the betterment and occasionally an unforeseen outcome. 

Overall, this picture sparked my imagination and empathy unlike anything before. In fact, it might be the most intelligent offering of 2016. Not wishing to divulge the film’s inner workings because it’s a spoiler minefield, the bottom line concerns character… that’s where Arrival achieves world-class depth.

(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for brief strong language.)

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