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Arrival [BD/Digital HD Combo ] [Blu-ray]
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When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team - led by expert codebreaker Louise Banks (Amy Adams) - is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.
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This is not a Sci-Fi action film. This is Sci-Fi in the same vein as Contact, Solaris, and 2001. Actually, it is very similar to 2001 in many ways and themes. If you thought 2001 was boring, you will hate this film. This is not a film about aliens. This is a film about how we react to adversity and uncertainty. You may have heard that this is a film about time travel. It's not. No one "travels" through time. This film is about supposing that time is relative (which we know it is) and perhaps even malleable if you understand it well enough. The key to understanding time in this film is language. One aspect I think the film got wrong is contrasting science and language. Science is a language. Science is a way to explain the phenomena around you in formulas that can be shared and duplicated with others i.e., a language. They are not adversarial, but the same.
One thing that surprised me greatly was the portrayal of the military. I think this is probably the truest representation of how military personnel would react. These aren't mindless soldiers. They are thinking human beings with human emotions thrust into a situation of unbelievable significance. Some handle it with fear and trepidation while others approach it with care and concern. If we are ever visited by an alien race, the event will transcend the military. It will transcend the government and even nations. The government does not own or have a right to police our access to foreign visitors. This film portrays very well the moral dilemmas between duty and human emotion.
Are there some problems with the film? Undoubtedly it could have added more steps of suspense along the way--just a few morsels to keep the suspense building even more. I think that would have eliminated some of the "boring" complaints. I also think Jeremy Renner did not belong in the film. He is an excellent actor and it's not like he doesn't act his role well, it's just that he brings too much "Jeremy Renner" baggage to the role for me to accept him completely. Amy Adams was perfect for this role, however.
You absolutely should watch this film if you like thinking about it afterwards. Nothing is spoon-fed to you in this film and you will NOT receive all the answers. Much is left open to your interpretation. It will leave you guessing to the very end. What would you do in the same situation?
If you thought 2001 was a masterpiece (it was) then you will love this film in much the same way. If you thought Independence Day was a masterpiece, don't waste your time watching this.
**Blu-ray note** Having purchase the Blu-ray, I can now speak to it separately from the film. The picture is stunning and one of the best films I have seen. The colors are slightly muted, but I'm sure it's intentional. I just don't remember it being overly dark in the theater.
There are over 80 minutes of extras, although I am slightly apprehensive about watching them. They basically explain the whole point of the film which I feel is better left to your own interpretation. The haters of the film won't ever get a chance to see what it was about since they surely won't buy this, but the answers are there if you want them.
If you are looking for something like "Independence Day," or "Aliens" then you will be disappointed. If you enjoyed "Interstellar," "Contact," or even "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," then you should find this movie very entertaining, and thought provoking. The film is carried entirely by Amy Adams - while the other actors did a fine job (including the special effect aliens) they (like the Sci-fi theme) are all incidental to Amy Adams character.
"Shane" was one of those films: A western, it was a film that was more about relationships than gunfights.
"The Bridge on the River Kwai" was also one of those films. Not just a war movie, it dealt with themes such as duty, honor, and betrayal.
"Arrival" is a science fiction movie but it, too, transcends its genre. It is a film that deals with the philosophical ramifications of the way in which we perceive time but it also makes powerful statements about fear-based decision making, the inertia of government bureaucracies, and the very human tendency to mistrust "others" that do not look, sound, or act as we do.
The premise of the movie is straightforward: Aliens arrive on Earth at various locations around the globe. Governments around the world immediately want to know why they are here and what they want. Among those chosen by the U.S. government to get answers to those questions are a language expert played - wonderfully - by Amy Adams and a theoretical physicist played by Jeremy Renner. Forest Whittaker plays the Army officer nominally in charge of the effort to discover the aliens' purpose.
All three actors deliver stellar performances, though in my opinion Adams outshines everyone else in the film. She is vulnerable, sometimes frightened, often courageous, and - ultimately - comes to personify the absolute best traits of human beings.
Despite excellent performances and marvelous writing, I fear this is not a film that will appeal to many sci-fi fans. There are no epic space battles ala "Star Wars" or "Star Trek," and that will lead many sci-fans to discount it. The special effects are well done but they are not as important to the story as are what the characters say and do. As a result, some science fiction fans, who have been fed a steady diet of mind-boggling CGI over the years, will likely be disappointed.
That's too bad, in my opinion, because the great science fiction of the past was about characters, not rocket ships and bug-eyed monsters (although there were plenty of those, I must admit.) If you read some of the science fiction from what we now call "The Golden Age" you'll see that. Isaac Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy" told the story, for example, of humanity's efforts to establish a stable society during a dark period in its future. There were space ships, of course, and a few battle scenes but it is primarily a story about people trying mightily to build a better life from the ashes of a failed government. The other giants of early science fiction - Ray Bradbury, Poul Anderson, Phillip K. Dick, and so many others - wrote movingly about the human condition as well. Their stories just happened to take place at other times and, often, on other planets.
Technically speaking, "Arrival" is very close to being a perfect movie. The writing is excellent, the characters believable, and the direction is seamless. The cinematography is extremely well done, conveying the mood of the film almost as a supporting actor would. The aliens are truly other-worldly and their complicated language is well thought out.
Taken all together, "Arrival" is a wonderful movie that is, in my opinion, destined to go down as a film classic.
It might seem incomprehensible why she decides to embrace the future knowing it’s going to be so beyond tragic. Yet, we all know that all precious things in our lives shall come to end sooner or later, and that just makes them even more precious today. There really is no “carpe diem” without “memento mori.”
It’s refreshing to see the Sci-Fi genre taking a break from destroying worlds and going back to its deep philosophical roots.
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