Saturday, November 12, 2016
When I first saw this trailer, I do admit that I was a little concerned at the fact that we were getting yet another alien invasion movie. I mean, the trailer was phenomenal, but what were they going to add to this genre that we haven't seen a thousand times already? Shortly after thinking that I noticed the director. Denis Villeneuve (pronounced "den-ee vil-uh-newv," I learned from my Jeremy Renner interview - he's from Quebec). In Denis we trust. That's a motto I've come to believe in. I haven't seen Enemy or Incendies, but I absolutely loved both Prisoners and Sicario. If Denis wanted to do an alien invasion movie, then I was down. And I prepared myself to love it. And guess what? I did. In fact, it's one of my favorite movies of the year so far. Just keep in mind that this is no Independence Day. By that I mean that this is not an action movie. This is not fast-paced or super intense. In fact, this is a very slow-moving sci-fi film. Ideas, plot, character and theme are what's pushed to the forefront as opposed to fancy CGI aliens and high-paced action. This is not a brainless action movie. In fact, it's the exact opposite, it's a slow moving drama that makes you use your brain.
I say this movie is a slow burn. And that is absolutely correct. However, this is not a boring movie. The pace of the movie is perfect and it successfully builds and builds to a fantastic climax. There are two major elements that I think heavily contribute to that. The first is the cinematography by Bradford Young. If you are a true fan of film, specifically the filmmaking process, you will practically be drooling at this movie with how perfect and beautiful every single shot is. It's breathtaking. The other aspect is the score by Jóhan Jóhannson. This score is mesmerizing. The score combined with the cinematography makes this a technically brilliant movie and if these two people that I called out don't get Oscar nominations, there's something seriously wrong with this world. There are more criticisms from others that have risen from this movie after essentially getting perfect reviews, but even if you didn't like other aspects of this movie, like the story or the characters, you have to at least appreciate these filmmaking qualities of this movie. What Denis Villeneuve has crafted is an absolute beauty and his talents as a filmmaker are definitely evident.
Personally, though, I really loved the story that this movie told. A lot of the advertising focused on the question of why the aliens aren't here and that's what much of the movie focused on as well. But the answer to that question is not what's important here. Yes, we do get an answer and you could argue that the answer is a little underwhelming. You could also make the claim that the logistics of the alien aspects of the movie are perfect. However, if you want a perfectly logical alien invasion thriller, well... that's kind of an oxi-moron. Aliens showing up to earth is absurd. That's never going to actually happen. That's why they call this science FICTION. Huge emphasis on the fiction. This movie creates it's own thing with the aliens and it's serviceable. If I were to rank the best portrayal of aliens in a movie, this may not score that well. But in my opinion, the alien arc of this movie is more of a means to something greater. The point here wasn't to show a cool story about aliens. The messages and themes of this movie are fantastic. And there's so many themes crammed in here that once it ends, you just have to sit there and unpack it all. The more you unpack, the greater this movie gets.
Speaking of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when I talked to Jeremy Renner, he actually compared Denis Villeneuve to Stanley Kubrick, the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I thought it was interesting that this came up in my interview without me even instigating it. Renner did that on his own. Renner also brought up Steven Spielberg when talking about Denis, saying Denis had the best qualities of Kubrick and Spielberg, which is some super high praise. Given Denis' current body of work, I'm not going to argue with this at all. Sure, he's early in his career, but all of his films I've seen of his have been fantastic. And the ones I haven't seen, I look at the reviews and they're all super high as well. If you haven't been paying attention to this man, change that now. Pay attention. He's the real deal. His movies are fantastic. I'd say he's one of the best up and coming directors in the business. As far as other comparisons to Arrival, I've been hearing Close Encounters of the Third Kind quite a bit as well as Contact. Jeremy Renner brought both of those up when I asked him and he's not the first. I haven't seen either of those movies, so I can't make that personal judgement. But I figured I'd throw that out there.
Overall, I've been telling people that I think Arrival is a sci-fi masterpiece and I stand by that. The more I thought about this movie over the past month, the better it got. And I even saw it again Thursday night when it opened to the general public and it still stood up. I do understand that this is not a movie for everyone. There's going to be a number of people that aren't that impressed with this movie and that's just personal style. For me, I love thought-provoking films. I love well-crafted films. I prefer story, characters and acting over exciting action and fancy effects. That's what this movie gave. It spoke to me. It made me think. It had themes that I loved. It's a movie that meant something rather than just being a fun, alien movie. If this movie doesn't hit with you, I guess I understand. But with a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes after nearly 200 reviews and an 8.5 on IMDb with 13,000 votes, I think there's enough people on my side to confidently say that this is a must see for everyone. There's a lot that I didn't get into because I want you to go in knowing as little as possible. But I hope you get the gist of what I am saying here. I absolutely love this film. I think it's a sci-fi masterpiece and as such I'm going to do what I haven't done yet this year. I'm giving Arrival a 10/10.