Arrival (2016)

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Tzi Ma

Directed by: Dennis Villeneuve

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in Arrival

There are only two reasons why aliens come to earth: to help us (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Close Encounters, ET) or to kill us (The War of the Worlds, Independence Day, Mars Attacks). By dint of not reading any reviews, I managed to stay in the dark over the motives of the aliens who land on earth in Arrival, and I was glad I did. Which leaves me grappling with how to write a review that will make you want to see this very fine film without actually telling you anything about it.

Here goes...

Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a respected language and communication expert. When 12 alien spacecraft appear, hovering over random locations around the planet (including one over Devon – surely a film in its own right, as Boris Johnson, played by David Walliams, is shoved on board and left to negotiate...) Louise is called in to interpret. But the creatures (who, incidentally, are brought to life wonderfully) speak a language that is like no other, communicating in circular ink blots (go with me on this one) that Louise must learn to decipher, so that when she asks the biggie – What is your purpose on Earth? – she can be sure that question and answer will be mutually understood.

Amy Adams reads the signs in Arrival

Okay so it sounds a little daft – and very occasionally the drama does get a bit ridiculous. but on the whole, the solid script, strong, believable performances from Adams, Jeremy Renner (as physicist and fellow civilian Ian) and Forest Whitaker (as the caring, sharing face of the US Army), and spelling binding SFX keep everything feeling weirdly credible.

Clever, absorbing and thought-provoking, Arrival is an intelligent sci-fi film for grown ups that, through its very structure, challenges our perceptions of communication and time. The chances of anything coming to earth may be a million to one - but if they do, let's hope things play out like this.

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