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Saturday, November 12, 2016

(Jesse's Take) Arrival 2016 * * 1/2 Stars

ArrivalDirector: Denis Villeneuve
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Containing a numbing, techy soundtrack, made for the widescreen, and distributed by Paramount Pictures, Arrival (my latest review) chronicles the modern day event of mysterious spaceships touching down via twelve different places in the world. With the U.S. Military being baffled by said event, a team of scientists (played by Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner) are assembled to negotiate with the extraterrestrials to find out what they truly want. Question: When did Earth's denizens become so darn afraid of alien species? That's what I asked myself a half hour into this 116-minute flick.

Anyway, in relation to Arrival, I have never seen a science fiction vehicle take itself so seriously, so pensively. Semantic symbols, decodes, language translation, mathematics, etc. In truth, I thought I was watching a high school film strip or secretly conducting a science project for Mr. Wizard. Who knew large spacecraft looking like half-eaten pistachios, could so profusely churn the mind's eye.

Now Arrival with its jumpy narrative and ode to the workings of a Pink Floyd music video, is directed by Denis Villeneuve. And as with his moderately successful Prisoners, no one does dark and dim quite like Villeneuve. Discarding violence and death by penetrative lasers, he tries to reinvent the close encounter wheel here and comes up with the first sci-fi, art film since 2002's Solaris. He also creates a thinking person's Independence Day as well. In certain scenes, Villeneuve uses rack focusing to capture various shots. Occasionally, he goes panoramic with other shots. He likes to mess with you, to have you linger, to turn the tables on your understanding of what manageable storytelling is.

His Arrival at first, feels slow, educational, and even a little pretentious. In the second half, it digs deeper. Flashbacks upon flashbacks, manipulation with the audience's perception of time. Arrival in the end, doesn't really project itself like a film about alien invasions. It unwieldy turns into a character study for one Dr. Louise Banks (played with nerve ending efficiency by Adams).

In hindsight, my speculated cognizance of Banks, is that not only is she a linguist but she can also see into the future (spoiler). When you start to ask questions about her, the movie ends rather frustratingly and on a sad note. Therefore, I didn't come out of Arrival thinking it was a flat out masterpiece. However, I know that it's the type of cinematic peppery that I just have to see again. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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