the fresh films reviews

S I N C E   1 9 9 7


Arrival (2016)

Denis Villeneuve
Science Fiction
116 minutes
Shawn Levy
Dan Levine
Aaron Ryder
David Linde
Screenwriter (based on "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang):
Eric Heisserer

Cast includes:

Louise Banks Amy Adams
Ian Donnelly Jeremy Renner
U. S. Army Colonel G. T. Weber Forest Whitaker
Agent David Halpern Michael Stuhlbarg
General Shang Tzi Ma
Captain Marks Mark O'Brien



Although I'm all for "cerebral" or "thinking" science fiction films, of which Close Encounters of the Third Kind still stands as the zenith, I do have a problem with films that are so eager to impress and show me its ostensibly novel ideas that they end up being didactic, simplified and borderline condescending. The two basic ideas in Arrival, a film about extraterrestrials' visit to earth and how a group of scientists welcome them, are the notion that the concept of language is essentially universal, and that the understanding of the concept of time basically is not. Being a linguist myself, I welcome the fact that language is made an important character in a high-profile film, but I'm not particularly impressed with how banally the filmmakers go from the generic concept that language is the foundation for successful interaction with strangers, to the full-blown (and quite badly motivated) linguistic determinism purported here. The filmmakers don't take their time in developing their language idea, instead simply expecting us to accept their concept after merely having introduced it. Subsequently, Amy Adams, the linguist, is rushed through a number of shortcuts in which her "interpretations" are really just convenient guesses (0.0833? Please!), awkwardly accompanied by Jeremy Renner whose character is a total trifle.

It would have been understandable if the rush was to escape from the grey and unimaginative colour palette which soaks the film, and which is only surpassed in dullness by the rendition of the spaceships. But it's not. It's to get to the film's conceited ideas about time, all of which have been figured out long before the so-called wow-moment that is ultimately presented in the most bloated manner towards the end. And that annoying musical score? Thanks, but I think I'll stick with "Re - Mi - Do - Do - So".

Copyright 1.3.2017 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang