Film Review: Arrival

by Evan Brown

Rated M. Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker. Directed by Denis Villeneuve.

“Why are they here?”

Ever been in a situation where all communication has failed? No matter what you say, what facial expressions, what hand gestures or what pictures you draw your point is not getting across? I can remember a communication fail quite clearly.  It was in a laundromat on Bleeker and I was doing my washing for the week. I can remember her blank gaze and the constant shaking of her head.  Whatever I said, whatever I did she just stared blankly at me and shook her head.  I remember thinking ‘How do I make hand gestures for cold wash with fabric softener?’ Having exhausted all options in frustration I gave up and decided to wash my clothes without her help. Needless to say my pyjama onesie was ruined – shrunken and unsoftened. Sigh…

Communication fail is at the heart of Denis Villeneuve’s latest flick Arrival and more than just pyjamas are at stake.  Fresh from the success of the critically acclaimed Sicario, Villeneuve has created another beautiful yet thrilling movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat squirming with anticipation. However, it’s not Mexican drug lords that will hold you in suspense, it’s the arrival of aliens.

Unlike every other alien invasion movie where the aliens are hostile and attack earth immediately (there are literally hundreds) Arrival proposes a different scenario where twelve alien spaceships arrive around the world and they don’t actually do anything. They just float there doing nothing at all.  Where did they come from?  Why are they here? And what do they want?  To figure this out the US government sends in Dr. Louise Banks (Adams), a world-renowned linguist academic and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Renner), a renowned scientist to go talk to the aliens and understand their language.  Banks and Donnelly are now in a race against time for answers as the rest of the world becomes increasingly impatient and drastically more hostile towards the uninvited guests.

In a year of disappointing let-downs in film, Arrival is an appreciated and unexpected breath of fresh air. Villeneuve’s sweeping landscape shots combined with Johan Johansson’s unconventional sound track create a beautiful yet surreal cinema experience.  The script is sophisticated yet easy to comprehend, and the plot will keep you thinking at night long after the viewing of the movie has ended.  Kinda like Interstellar without the cool robots.

Arrival is less about aliens and more about communication and stresses the importance of good communicative skills. As a Christian and as someone who has been working in ministry for some time now I can’t stress the importance of displaying good communicative skills in our everyday lives.

Almost every week after a Sunday gathering I find myself in conversation with someone who constantly scans the room behind me, looking for someone better to talk to whilst still talking to me. Good communication requires sacrifice as you are putting someone else’s time above your own and humbly valuing them above yourself.  In Philippians 2:3 the apostle Paul tells us to:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Being a good communicator is to be an imitator of Jesus Christ who humbly sacrificed his own life so that we could live.  Next time you’re in conversation with someone remember that good communication is a mark of the gospel.

The Verdict: Arrival is easily the best film I’ve seen this year. A wonderful blend of art, drama, literature and music all in one. 4.5/5

Arrival releases in cinemas worldwide from today.

For more movie reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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