A mid-week cinema screening at 9 o'clock on a chilly winter's evening is not normally what I would opt for, preferring instead to shut the world out straight after work and be snuggled up at home with a cuppa and whatever the TV has to offer. However, having heard positive noise about the latest in a string of Amy Adams movies, and an interview with the talented actress, I decided to forgo the early night and take a chance on a film I didn't really know much about. My partner had mentioned that he would like to see it when he saw the trailer a couple of weeks ago, so we wrapped up and made the harrowing journey into Witney, 5 minutes from home.
As the showing started my partner leaned over and whispered 'Is this the one about aliens?!' which I suppose is one way to describe it, so I nodded. However, although from the outset it may appear to be about aliens, there is a lot more depth to the story.
Adams plays linguistics professor Dr Louise Banks, quietly going about her day when the news breaks that 12 alien spacecraft have appeared at seemingly random points around the world. We see everything through her eyes, and her performance is one of the best I have seen in the last few years – she is expressive yet subtle in her reaction to everything going on around her. And there is a lot going on in her hitherto (apparently) rather lonely life. A visit from Colonel Weber (the always brilliant Forest Whitaker) informs us that she has previous in working with the government in linguistics matters, and still has Top Secret clearance. They need her to decipher the alien language, and quickly.
It's difficult to review Arrival while trying not to give too much away. I went into the film knowing little about it, and I think that is the best way; you discover the events along with Dr Banks and new acquaintance Ian Donnelly (a flirty Jeremy Renner), recruited to unravel the scientific and mathematical side of things, while Banks figures out how to communicate. It is cinematically beautiful, with slow panning shots and stunning vistas (whether it's Banks' isolated home or the Montana Ground Zero) and while it may not be action-packed it still has moments that had my heart-racing.
What I loved most about it was its heart. While the world is panicking and shutting down communications between countries, unwilling to share what they have learned from the craft in their territory, Banks and Donnelly work together with the heptapods and the two species slowly begin to understand each other, while Banks also learns a lot more about herself.