Amy Adams gives a truly Oscar worthy performance in the year’s most intelligent sci-fi film, writes Kevin O'Mahony.
Director: Denis Villeneuve.
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nathaly Thibault, Mark O’Brien.
Genre: Sci-Fi.
Running Time: 116 min.
There has been somewhat of a renaissance for smart science-fiction of late. 2016 has seen the release of sleeper hits like 10 Cloverfield Lane, Midnight Special, as well as the wildly popular Stranger Things and more recently the third season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror - all of which have shown that the genre can be executed in a clever and interesting way.
Then, out of nowhere, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) drops his latest feature ‘Arrival’, a film whose intelligence and intellect cannot be understated.
The story begins with Dr. Louise Banks (Adams), a quiet, lonely language teacher as she, and the world at large, come to grips with the arrival of twelve giant extra-terrestrial pods scattered throughout the planet. She is recruited by the US government to decipher the language of the foreign beings while the leaders of the world struggle to comprehend the alien’s motives. As a world-class linguist, Adams and her team (including an on-form Jeremy Renner) are on a race against time to crack the code-based language before more trigger-happy nations lose their patience.
To say any more about the plot would not only spoil the fun and intrigue (of which there is a lot), but it would also be doing the films script a deep injustice. Writer Eric Heisserer has managed to inject this story with such a sense of realism and gravitas that even the most fantastical elements of the film seem believable and realistic. This is one of the most intelligent films to ever ask the question ‘what if aliens landed on earth?’. It is Independance Day for the thinking man, Close Encounters for the new millennium, E.T. for adults. And in a post-Brexit, post-Trump world, one cannot help but feel that if such an unlikely event were to happen, it might just unfold somewhat like this. It’s cerebral, visceral and utterly compelling.
Everything about this film is commendable, from it’s stunning cinematography and CGI visuals to it’s insidious and hypnotic score by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. But it is Adams’s central performance that wins the day. Her portrayal as a bruised, stubborn but deeply likeable character will undoubtedly see her bag plenty of gongs come award season and she might just end up taking the most coveted of prizes at the Oscars. 
VERDICT: This is not your average sci-fi popcorn fare. All the stars have aligned to make this one of the films of the year and Adams leads the line with a wonderful performance. You will leave the cinema with a lot to ponder and you might just find yourself queueing up to see it again. Arrival is a modern sci-fi masterpiece and deserves all the accolades it will get. Go and see it. Now.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Arrival hits Irish cinemas today, Thursday 10 November