By Philip Revzin
CHICAGO, 21 DECEMBER 2016 Movies have always enjoyed playing
around with time, from The Time Machine to Benjamin
Button to Interstellar.
Without spoiling it for those who haven't seen it yet, suffice it to
say that Arrival, the newest refreshing sci-fi movie in a line
stretching from Gravity to Interstellar to The
Martian, plays around with our notion of time a lot. It also
profoundly challenges our assumptions about language, relationships and
power. And to top it off, its really beautiful, and its got potentially
scary outer-space monsters that turn out to be about as scary as they
would be if they were made out of Play-Doh..
Arrival is held together by an Oscar-worthy performance by Amy
Adams as Louise Banks, complemented by a strong showing by Jeremy Renner,
who is given a lot more to do here than he usually is in the
X-Men series. Shes a linguist and hes a data whiz sent to a
makeshift Army base in the wilds of Montana where for some reason one of
12 alien spaceships, looking like a cross between Stanley Kubricks
2001: A Space Odyssey monolith and a badly rolled cigar, have
sort of landed, hovering just above land or sea.
Denis Villeneuves Arrival
The military folks resist, for a time, their natural urges to attack
the things, though they manage to muck things up politically anyway, and
Renners character tries all sorts of measurements and stuff. Meanwhile,
Adams character figures out all those foghorn sounds are the creatures
trying to communicate, writes them a note, and is rewarded by their
issuing forth ink that forms into peculiar circular symbols with various
blotches and curlicues attached. Her quest and eventual success in
figuring out what this all means takes up most of the movie, and in so
doing director Denis Villeneuve delivers thought-provoking ideas not only
about time, but also about language,
communication, life, and death. Thats a lot for any movie, but
Arrival pulls it off without being preachy.
Amy Adams in Denis
The movie is based on a legendary science-fiction short story called
Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, and both versions remind us of
the power of fantastical stories to stretch accepted truths and notions in
ways that may violate the laws of physics, but yield completely fresh
thinking about subjects we dont think about enough. Thats been true for
a very long time, and long may it continue. We need diversion, but we also
Forrest Whitaker, Amy Adams, and Jeremy
Renner in Denis Villeneuves
So come to Arrival for the seven-legged monsters or Amy Adams
or Jeremy Renner or Forrest Whitaker as the good-guy Army officer, but
leave actually thinking about heavy stuff like time and mortality, and
realize youve been entertained to boot.
Thats not a bad thing for any movie to accomplish right now.
Philip Revzin is an award winning journalist and former
editor-at-large for Bloomberg News. Previously, he was a long-time
reporter, editor and publisher for The Wall Street Journal Europe in
London, Paris and Brussels. Later, Mr. Revzin was named publisher and
editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and the publisher for The Wall
Street Journal Asia in Hong Kong. He last wrote on Fake
News for Culturekiosque. More recently, Philip
Revzin is the author of Just
One Before I Die: A Cubs Fans Chronicle of a Championship
Season, currently available in a Kindle edition on Amazon.com.
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