Aliens are here again, but this time we have Amy Adams to figure out their language and make sure no pesky misunderstandings lead to the destruction of humanity. Had Independence Day been directed by Terrence Malick, it probably would have looked and thought a lot like Arrival. Adams stars as linguist Dr. Louise Banks, who, along with scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), is in a race with the rest of the world’s powers to figure out what the aliens are offering before some country—namely, China or Russia—loses its cool and starts an intergalactic conflict.
Arrival takes two familiar stories—a grieving parent and an alien invasion—and builds a whole new story from their convergence. Stick with Sicario and Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve’s new film through a rather chilly first act. Emotional engagement with this story of the value of communication does not come early or easy, but by its conclusion, the heptapods—that is what the film’s hand-resembling aliens are called—will have gotten their space-time-hopping hooks in you, thanks to the best script yet written by Eric Heisserer. The presence of the scripter of the Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing remakes did not engender much faith; essentially, I am giving him credit for not ruining an excellent film.
A rather exceptional sum of its parts, Arrival boasts a completeness many highly lauded films lack. No one moment, performance or scene stands out, but the intelligent film will resonate for days longer than most of its disposable celluloid peers.