Sunday, November 13, 2016

Arrival (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival" is riveting, tense and thought provoking. It is the story of alien beings coming to earth to tell us something, and at times it is opaque just what the "something" means.

From the start, we are hooked. While it slightly resembles "Inception" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," its surprise turns and philosophical depth make it a unique film for the genre.

One day linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who is coping with the death of her daughter, is teaching at college. Sudden beeps are heard. Each student is recieving text messages. Louise turns on the TV and discovers to her great shock that alien ships are hovering all over the world in some forty countries.  People are in an uproar.

Not knowing what to do, she goes home and is visited by  Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) who tells her that her expertise is needed with the extraterrestrial language barrier. She refuses. But after being summoned in the dark of night, Louise agrees and she is flown to Montana.

The military camp looks like a toy army field from above, plastic and frozen, the men with guns glued in place. The ship is there, hovering inches from the verdant green expanse, egg like and grayish black: a three-dimensional Magritte painting.

Louise is briefed and introduced to physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). They are put in Hazmat suits and sent upward. This is suspenseful because they are sent up a pitch black shaft and we feel their uncertainty.

They meet the beings but do they mean introduction or harm? The visitors speak in a calligraphic language that has no linear bearing on time and space. Understandably, both Louise and Ian are in a dilemma. How far should they push and just what is the meaning of their encounter if the language used is absent in qualities of beginning or end?

Amy Adams is excellent as a conscientious  professor and grieving mother who cares greatly about her discovery, but more immediately is just trying to cope.

Director Villeneuve (Prisoners) has the sense not to reveal too much and while the story does get technical and maze-like, there is enough heart and emotion to keep one held and transfixed. The singular sight of the huge ship floating  mere inches from an emerald greenspace is enough to make one cheer for Surrealism in the 21st century.

"Arrival" is a contemplative film that rejects spoon-feeding its audience or giving easily digestible images. It is a provocative film which goes deeper than Christopher Nolan's aforementioned highly praised puzzler "Inception".

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