Arrival: A Modern Masterpiece

Arrival: A Modern Masterpiece

Molly Hanley

The first time I saw the trailer for Arrival, I knew it was going to be a transcendent cinematic experience. However, I didn’t expect it to affect me as much as it did.

On the way home from the theater after seeing the film, my mom wanted to talk to me about “what the ending even means,” and if I “even understood it or if [I] was just pretending [I] did.” However, the uncertainty I felt at the end of the film and how I kept running the climax through my head was rather enjoyable. A film really does it for me when it sits with me for a few minutes, hours, or days after the credits roll.

The main reason I was excited after seeing the film was not because of the haunting score by Johann Johannsson or the open ended scenarios presented in the trailer. Too many times to count I have seen a film and been disappointed because the trailer has made the film out to be better than it really is. I have done my best to train myself to keep my expectations low; that way, my hopes are not crushed.

However, as soon as I understood that this was the newest film from Denis Villeneuve, my hopes were much higher than I wanted them to be. The first Villeneuve film I saw was is his 2010 film Incendies. That film made me realize that there is no boundaries for the stories that can be told and the films that can be made. I have trusted Villeneuve since then, and Arrival hasn’t changed my opinion on that.

The plot of Arrival centers around linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who is chosen by the FBI to translate the language of aliens who have mysteriously come to earth and landed their ships in twelve different locations around the world. Along with her, physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) has been assigned this task as well. Together the pair attempts to decode the language before it is too late.

Often times, I have heard from my peers that Arrival is a slow film. However, the scenes that are “slow,” are really tense. During the film, when there were moments of silence or waiting, I felt most nervous. This was probably because the prolonged scenes made viewers want to understand the buildup as to why nothing was happening, and added to the overall eerie tone of the film.

When the screen cut to the credits, I was so amazed by the masterpiece I had just seen I had no words to express the way I felt. I have never been a fan of sci-fi films, but Denis Villeneuve’s latest film makes me want to explore the genre more often. It breaks both sci-fi and drama film stereotypes, and paves the way for more films of the same nature. Arrival makes me say “wow, that is how film is supposed to be made.”

At first glance, Arrival seems like a classic sci-fi; however, it cuts deeper. Underneath its surface storyline of alien invasion, the film is a meditative look on human connection, and the importance of international cooperation in times of crisis.