The movie starts with a huge, compressed flashback of our protagonist, Louise Banks. This reminds me the opening of the movie Up (2009) where emotional nostalgia of the past are squeezed tightly in a montage. We are introduced to a linguistic professor who lives alone, in a reasonable assumption that she was fighting back her memories of her marriage due to the death of her young daughter, packed together in such short time.
In the next part, our protagonist deals with her real problem which were the point of the whole story-the aliens. As she began to lecturing the class as usual, news announces that something unidentified are appearing in parts of the world. These objects, the UFO, looks totally unique. It reminds me of the black square-shaped objects in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) but much more bigger. And then, some upper government officials interrupts her silent evening with an invitation, with a purpose that she can at least try to communicate with aliens.
At first in my expectation, the movie is about linguistic kind of thing. And yes, my guess until here is still relevant. Exploring the philosophy of communication, the following parts of the movie shows the fragile parts of human and their activity of communicating. We see our protagonist speaks with her co-worker, Ian, in a disrupting situation. The audience cannot hear what they're talking about as the sound of buzzing helicopter are all over the scene. Next, we see armed forces in a stance that they're ready to attack at anytime, forging the problem of communication again, with the audience hoping something bad will not happen as a matter of commando of their authority. Lastly, we see riots and vandalism of human all over the world are shown. We could see these scenes as a critic to human, with their inability to grasp the same real meaning of another.
One thing from the movie production that stand out is the use of music. The score is amazing. Example of use is when the opening scene, when the slow, neoclassical violin captures the melancholic side of Louise Banks in such a short time without being too annoying. Its breathtaking, emotionally potent sound harmonizes with loneliness the protagonist had, and it is too ignorant, unless they're sleeping throughout the scene, for audience to not to grasp the same feeling. And it is just the first part of the movie. Next we can see how Villeneuve, with Johannsson as the orchestrator the whole score, to do tension in many scenes. They do impressive job on how they make a movie as eerie as possible. Sometimes, Villeneuve was caught again doing with his style of making movies to make the people who watches drown in anxiety. The distinctive use of silence, for example, has alot to do with his works. On Sicario (2015), Villeneuve use silence to capture the moral dilemma the character had during whole movie. The same technique, as not surprisingly, found in his earlier movie, like Incendies, Enemy, or Prisoner. It is repeated again on Arrival when he uses it as a buildup to something going to happen, or when the protagonist encounter some weird moments e.g when she enters the alien ship for the first time.
Second, the cinematography is jaw-dropping. The film looks so crisp and cold. With the minimal use of special effects, the movie adds some legitimacy to alien scenes for example. I don't know if it budget cut or not, but the movie are not so depended on the camera movement or some practical effects. Even if it is true, unexpectedly, it still makes the contact between human and alien as a sacred encounter. That is because the camera works is so pristine at its best, that it'd add new level of authenticity without being too pretentious.
Lastly, the performance of the actors/actress is really really good. Amy Adams, as the main character, delivers a nice execution. She really puts her pain, fear, suffering, and confusion in the scenario that she's being put through very excellent. Forest Whittaker and Jeremy Renner is also. As a supporter of the main character, they really good at being companion to her.
To deliver an emotional sci-fi movie is not easy. Interstellar (2014), for example, is trying too hard for being one. Instead of presenting a hard-hitting emotional picture, Interstellar falls into a deep abyss of vivid vagueness. While using the same technique, Arrival succeeded to manage the whole picture full of strong feeling, while keep maintaining its intellectual interpretation to left to audience. The message of being sci-fi movie, as audience has to know the basic level of certain knowledge to understand, is still there, whilst at the same time is not being far in state of confusion and blandness.
Overall, Denis Villeneuve still continues his streak of excellent filmmaking with Arrival. Denis no need to doubt his talent while making another masterpiece. In Arrival, he's already doing a great job. The movie is rich in storytelling, nearly accomplishes in all aspect, a stand-out in a generation that is in need of good sci-fi movie, and clearly one of the best film of 2016.