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SIngli6's Movie Reviews (250)

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Arrival (2016) 
Arrival Left Me Frustrated
3/4 stars

What a frustrating experience!

The first act of this film is, quite simply, exceptional. Villeneuve plays up the mystery and tension of this scenario to levels of true excellence. We do not get a proper glimpse of one of these alien crafts until the moment our protagonist Dr. Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) sees one first-hand, at which point we are treated to a wonderfully composed long shot of the bizarrely shaped vessel levitating above a green, mountainous expanse of land as a truly haunting leitmotif for the alien presence plays. Subsequent scenes expertly maintain the tension by staging the first occasion Banks boards the ship, joined by theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner), with near Kubrickian precision and pacing. The 2001 parallels are inescapable here, and indeed very welcome, as such an occasion as this can only rightly be played for every moment it's worth.

The second act then rolls in and turns the movie into a puzzle story, as our heroes try to figure out exactly for what the aliens are intending to do on Earth. It's arguably the 'funnest' section of the movie, and it is certainly the most interesting.

But then the third act begins, and the screenwriter rather inexplicably develops a seething contempt for his audience. Up until this point, we have been treated to flashbacks of Banks' past traumatic experiences with a child who died of cancer and a vicious divorce that followed soon after. They were not particularly well- directed scenes, and I felt their presence as shorthand for character depth only succeeded at lessening the film. Well, certain revelations occur about the nature of the aliens' language that, shall we say, cast these scenes in a different light, and with that the film suddenly explores a concept that I had not anticipated that it would explore at all upon entering the cinema. This is a spoil- free review, so I won't tell you what it is. I will give you a hint, though. Christopher Nolan covered it rather recently, and it is a concept that is infamous for allowing characters to be quite literally handed the solutions, having done almost nothing to earn them.

I loved so much of this film, but by its end, it had let me down, and I cannot give it anymore than an overly generous 3/4 for that grave sin.


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