Review: Arrival (12A, 1hr 58mins)


What a year it has been for intelligent sci-fi films that have come out of nowhere!

We’ve been spoilt with the likes of 10 Cloverfield Lane and Midnight Special, and for those who like their sci-fi to be a bit more mainstream then Star Trek Beyond and Independence Day: Resurgence were decent enough (if a little insipid). Here’s hoping 2016 ends on a high with Star Wars: Rogue One

…in the meantime we have Arrival to quench our sci-fi thirst. Like 10 Cloverfield Lane and Midnight Special, this wasn’t on my radar at the start of the year and its release wasn’t expected. I can’t even remember hearing any casting news, and with such a popular director as Denis Villeneuve at the helm I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of Arrival sooner. I try not to read or listen to any reviews until I have seen the film but the overall buzz from the critics has been positive…

They were right!

When twelve spaceships appear in different locations across the planet, US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) calls on Military Scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and Linguist Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to make contact. Whilst the arrival of these spaceships causes worldwide alarm despite no threat or violence from these apparently benign beings, a tragedy from Dr Banks’ past comes to the fore in her attempts to contact this mysterious alien race…


This is my kind of sci-fi. With an intelligent script and solid, unflashy visuals that complement the story as opposed to over-whelming it, Arrival is a triumph from start to finish. What surprised me most was how still the film was and yet it was successful in building up the tension and mystery despite very little happening on screen. The director of photography lets the story breathe and captures the “action” with the deftest of touches. Paced to perfection, my attention never wavered. The director delivers the story to an audience that he knows will understand its complex intricacies and doesn’t dumb it down for fear of alienation, yet he doesn’t go into too much sci-fi mumbo-jumbo to lose any viewers either. Villeneuve has struck a fine balance masterfully; an intelligent story but accessible. Hats off to Jóhann Jóhannsson also, whose score for this film works in harmony with the visuals and never jolts you out of the film. With Villeneuve in the director’s chair for Blade Runner 2049 and Jóhannsson on composing duties, my initial reluctance to a sequel to a sci-fi classic is starting to assuage…

arrival-03Amy Adams is a revelation in this film and an absolute delight to watch. I know she can act but I have never been so moved and convinced by her performances as I was with this. She conveys such a range of emotions with the subtlest of facial gestures and never falls victim to melodrama. At the very least she should get a nomination for the Best Actress category at the Oscars. Jeremy Renner doesn’t get enough credit for his work but his performance in Arrival proves that he can act for those who just see him as Hawkeye in the Marvel Conglomerate. He melts into the background somewhat as a result of the stellar performance of Adams but he convinces as a scientist trying to discover what these beings are despite the lead stealing the show.

It is a very rare film indeed that I find I have no criticism for. It is an astonishing achievement that all involved should be very proud of. With Hollywood going through a stale patch of unimaginative remakes and suffering from a stench of desperation to find the next multi-faceted franchise of banality, this is a welcome breath of fresh air.

More of this, please, Hollywood, and by that I don’t mean a sequel!


I saw Arrival at the wonderful Electric Cinema in Birmingham, which is the UK’s oldest working cinema. If you live in the West Midlands and love film I highly recommend you pay this beautiful cinema a visit. They also publish a free film magazine that’s available from the door. For more information on The Electric Cinema click here and for more information on their Electrolyte Magazine click here


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