Rental Review - Arrival

Arrival (2016), PG-13, 116 minutes - Despite being very intrigued by the trailer last fall, I missed this film in theaters due to the craziness of trying to prepare for the holidays.  Having seen that it was nominated for a number of Academy Awards this year, my wife and I picked it up from Redbox last weekend and were both really impressed with what we saw.

The film begins with flashbacks of expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) with her daughter, who we are shown passes away from an unspecified ailment (presumably cancer of some sort).  We then shift to the present and where Louise is beginning a lecture for a University class she teaches.  Class is interrupted by the news that twelve extraterrestrial ships have appeared across the globe.  Shortly thereafter, Louise is visited by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker).  She had helped the military with some translations in the past and still had an acceptable security clearance level.  She politely turns down the Colonel's request for her consultation, but also implies that the man next on the Colonel's list isn't as qualified.  After reaching that same conclusion, the Colonel returns and is able to convince Louise to become a part of his team.  Along with mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), she is tasked with determining the purpose of extraterrestrial's appearance.  She shows the Colonel that in order to properly get an accurate answer to that quesion, they first need to develop a way to communicate with the visitors on the most basic levels.  After all, English is a complex language that is foreign to them.  This is a much slower process than the Colonel (or the governments researching the other various landing sites for that matter) would like, but Louise and Ian prove to make progress.  Unfortunately, their timeline is cut short when China decides to take military action (a decision that causes other countries to follow suit).      

I'm afraid to get into much more detail as I don't want to give away the very nice twist that takes place.  It is really well done, really makes you think, and adds to the already emotional impact of the film.  Adams, Renner, and Whitaker are all strong in this film and director Denis Villeneuve (known previously for thrillers such as Prisoners and Sicario) proves worthy of his Oscar nomination this year for Best Achievement in Directing.

I haven't seen as many Academy Award nominees this year as I have in the past, but Arrival has become my favorite of those I have seen.  With nominations in eight categories this year (mostly in technical categories), I hope that it manages to take home some hardware when tomorrow night's ceremony has come to a close.

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