Sunday, February 12, 2017

Video review: "Arrival"

“Arrival” is a fine science fiction drama, more contemplative and imaginative than we usually see. But a Best Picture Oscar nominee? Please.

(In this regard it shares a lot of company, up to and including the runaway favorite, “La La Land.”)

Amy Adams plays Louise Banks, a scientist specializing in languages. When giant black ebony space ships suddenly appear out of the sky, silently taking up station at random points around the globe, she’s brought in to try to communicate with the invaders.

The “heptapods” allow the humans into their ships once every 18 hours. We see some massive tentacles through a clear wall, but the only sounds they make are grunts and screeches that none of the other big brains can make sense of.

Louise, working with fellow egghead Ian (Jeremy Renner), try to use visual aids to make a breakthrough. Meanwhile, military leaders (including Forest Whitaker) are barking orders and international leaders are stoking fears, believing that the aliens came to provoke a war.

The pivotal role falls to Louise, who discovers that the extraterrestrials do not view time in the same linear line as humans.

I don’t mean to deplore “Arrival.” My chief criticism is that it’s a movie that works very much on an intellectual level and not so much on an emotional one. Most films go the other way, so it’s refreshing to see one aim more for the mind than the heart.

The truly best films, though – the kind nominated for Best Picture – should do both.

Bonus features are a bit lacking, especially if you buy the DVD edition, which contains none.

The Blu-ray comes with five making-of featurettes: “Xenolinguistincs: Understanding Arrival,” “Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design,” “Eternal Recurrence: The Score,” “Nonlinear Thinking: The Editorial Process” and “Principles of Time, Memory & Language.”



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