Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the alien invasion flick “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams, “Loving,” with Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga and “Almost Christmas” with Danny Glover, Mo’Nique and Gabrielle Union.
In Arrival, a new humanistic sci fi film from future Blade Runner director Denis Villeneuve, Amy Adams plays a woman who sees life on a fractured timeline, like a Tarantino movie where the beginning is the end and the end is the start.
She plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist recruited by the U.S. Military to communicate with giant alien heptapods—think Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons— who have landed in Montana and eleven other sites worldwide. Are the ETs scientists, tourists or warriors?
“Most science fiction movies are about a display of technology or weaponry,” says Villeneuve, “and Arrival is not that at all. It is an intimate story about a linguist who is confronted by a huge challenge. In a way Arrival has some elements of a sci fi movie but it is closer to a strange cultural exchange.”
War of the Worlds this is not. Based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, this is an alien invasion film with more in common with the heady sci fi of Andrei Tarkovsky and the crowd-pleasing emotionalism of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s more about the importance of communication—“Language is the first weapon drawn in conflict.”—than alien technology or Independence Day style Martian marauding.
The story is an exploration of the unknown, exactly the thing that sparked Villeneuve’s interest in the script and to the genre in general.
“The vertigo that is created by the unknown,” he says, “that is what attracted me to sci fi.”
The director, who is currently putting the finishing touches on Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling, says he was a bit of a Walter Mitty type while growing up in Quebec.
“I was really a dreamer and was surrounded by science fiction coming out of Europe. There is a moment I remember vividly. At a very young age one of my aunts came home one night and she had brought two or three big cardboard boxes filled with magazines. Those magazines were all about sci fi. Those boxes changed my life because the amount of the poetry and creativity among the guys that were drawing those comic strips. They were very strong storytellers. They were all like mad scientists playing with our brains. They really influenced me big time as a youngster and then came the wave of sci fi movies coming out of the US that were so strong at the end of the seventies.”
He cites a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece as a potent example of the kind of sci fi that lit his imagination on fire.
“The biggest impact was 2001: A Space Odyssey,” he says. “The first time I saw it was on television. I remember vividly the vertigo that movie created. Even though I saw it on TV I still think it is one of the most significant cinematic experiences I have had.”
In Arrival Villeneuve takes a page from Kubrick’s playbook and by the time the end credits roll he presents the audience with a climax that is both spacey and grounded.
“It is a privilege when you can take a camera and ask people to sit for two hours in a theatre,” says Villeneuve. “It is nice if you take that privilege to explore something out of our reality, to bring some poetry to it.”
In “Arrival,” a new humanistic sci fi film from future “Blade Runner” director Denis Villeneuve, Amy Adams plays a woman who sees life on a fractured timeline, like a Tarantino movie where the beginning is the end and the end is the start.
Adams is Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist recruited by the U.S. Military to communicate with giant alien heptapods—think Kang and Kodos from “The Simpsons”— who have landed in Montana and eleven other sites worldwide. Are they scientists, tourists or warriors?
“What do they want?” asks Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). “Where are they from?”
With voices that sound like a Didgeridoo mixed with an out-of-tune electronic tuba and a written language that resembles “The Ring” logo, no answers are immediately forthcoming. Working with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) Banks slowly forms a bond with the multi-legged ETs. In return she receives a gift from them that changes everything.
“War of the Worlds” this is not. Based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, this is an alien invasion film with more in common with the heady sci fi of Andrei Tarkovsky and the crowd-pleasing emotionalism of Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” It’s more about the importance of communication—“Language is the first weapon drawn in conflict.”—than alien technology or “Independence Day” style Martian marauding. It’s a deliberately paced, contemplative film that suggests an alternative to the old ethos of shooting first and asking questions later. Questions are asked, few are answered but the result is an intelligent but dreamy story that never lets the scene get in the way of the film’s emotional core.
That core is supplied by Adams. As Dr. Louise Banks she dominates the movie. Everyone else, including Renner and Whitaker, are basically window dressing for a performance that bristles with wonder, sadness and yes, even scientific method. Banks may be methodical but Adams isn’t. She wrings every bit of sentiment from a script that tries to balance its cool social accountability with a story that delves into the soul of its main character.
I can’t reveal more about how or why Banks goes about deciphering the alien intentions. The film plays with timelines and by the time the end credits roll “Arrival” has offered the audience an explanation that is both spacey and grounded.