Arrival is the film of intelligence and emotional depth which Independence Day decided to forgo in favour of patriotic flag-waving and Will Smith punching some aliens. Both films begin with a mysterious collection of alien spacecraft appearing in various locations across the globe, however, instead of calling up Mr Smith and his punching prowess, the military of Arrival enlist linguist, Louise (Amy Adams), and a physicist (Jeremy Renner) to help with attempted communications with the aliens. What follows is a race to understand the purpose of their presence on earth before the hysteria and tension gripping the planet boils over into warfare.
Beginning with the saddest first five minutes of a film since Pixar’s Up, Arrival immediately signals to the viewer that it is no typical alien invasion film. The mood of the film is melancholic rather than thrilling, with the coming of the aliens shown in no great detail. Arrival would prefer to portray this event through the loneliness of Adams’ Louise, who falls asleep in front of news coverage of the landings in her large, empty house. Once Louise and Ian (Renner) are brought into contact with the aliens and progress is made in understanding their strange, smoke-like language, her mental health appears to suffer. Louise becomes plagued by unwanted memories of the loss she suffers at the film’s beginning, the sadness of which is always bubbling under the surface of Arrival. Even when the purpose of the aliens’ presence on earth is revealed, and Louise’s visions explained, it is still heart-breaking even in its hopefulness.
Arrival is a thoughtful sci-fi film brimming with intelligence and invention. While it may pale in comparison with Interstellar’s space-travel spectacle, Arrival is able to show a depth of emotion through Louise which Christopher Nolan and his film could not. A unique, melancholy must-see.