LMSS SPHINCTER vol.80 iss.2 Winter Issue - Page 30

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16 The film review corner
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The

Film Review Corner

ARRIVAL ( 2016 )

Starring : Amy Adams , Jeremy Renner & Forest Whittaker
Dennis Villeneuve ’ s graceful entry into mainstream cinema in 2013 with Prisoners was an exercise of ample style and substance . The muted greys of the rainy Pennsylvanian suburbs bore witness to the sensitively painted tensions , grievances and madnesses of a tragedy-stricken family . Sicario followed in 2015 , displaying the same deft and artful direction . And in 2016 we have Arrival .
Set in what seems to be present time , we follow Dr . Louise Banks ( Amy Adams ), a high-flyer in the world of linguistics , who is contacted by the military to decipher a warped and gutturalsounding but nevertheless hot mixtape from some new-on-the-scene extraterrestrials . Aided by astrophysicist Ian Donnelly , she works to communicate meaningfully with them in order to find the reason for their visit , and along the way , they struggle with metaphysical incertitude , dead children and fractions .
Though this is the basic premise of the film , there is a certain thoughtful charm and creativity in the execution . It is slower paced than other
“ communication breakdown and global turmoil in times of uncertainty ”
comparable Hollywood scifi productions , but it serves Arrival well . Its emotional arc is somewhat touching and manages to dip only a generous foot into twee sentimentality whereas Interstellar stripped off and cannonballed in . It is perhaps closer to 2001 : A Space Odyssey in its calculated pacing and distinct visual style ( sans floating space babies and technicoloured psychedelia ) complete with allusions to 2001 ’ s orange space suits and black monoliths .
Arrival ’ s slick sleightof-hand makes sure that though it is marketed as another alien invasion story , its focus is almost squarely on the humans . An approach primed to explore the timely and topical themes of communication breakdown and global turmoil in times of uncertainty as well as difficult circumstances at the individual level . We see words , thoughts , intentions and actions interpreted and misinterpreted with all the stupidity and brilliance of which our little species is capable ; we see international relations break up , make up , break down and pull itself back together ; we see our
Sphincter magazine | volume 80 issue 2 | Winter 2016 edition protagonist struggle to come to terms with death , the nature of time and our own ( in ) significance .
While this is great , it is not without its share of problems , part of which is that it descends into cliché to fill the leftover spaces : faceless , charmless military men who are much too ready to abandon diplomacy ; faceless , charmless higher-up agent types who throw spanner after spanner in the protagonist ’ s works ; Russia and China wanting bombs first and questions later - all basic tropes of a disaster movie . It also suffers from a lack of interesting locales and visual stimuli : mainly taking place in a grey house , grey alien room and grey army barracks - it ’ s sometimes painfully bland-looking . The cinematographer of his last two films is absent from this one and sometimes it ’ s all too apparent .
Arrival is not a great film , it is however , a good one . It ’ s smarter than expected , but probably less smart than it would like to be ; it ’ s in turn pretty and ugly and at once entertaining and a little frustrating .
As Banks would say , it ’ s a zero sum game .
Prav Somarathne
Film Columnist 2 nd Year Medical Student

“ although there is a certain thoughtful charm and creativity in the execution , it is slower paced than other comparable films ”

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