ARRIVAL Review – Hauntingly Cerebal, It Will Make You Think and Think Again

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ARRIVAL Review by James Mandell @cerealatomic

arrival reviewI’m a sci-fi lover, and discovered author Ted Chiang about two years ago. He wrote “Story of Your Life” in his book of the same title, a collection of short stories that were the most quietly riveting and creative I’d ever read. The movie is an account of an alien visitation, this one with a dozen enormous pickle-shaped ships, materializing and serenely floating a few feet above the ground in locations around the world. This causes some consternation among the people of earth, who must determine the nature of the phenomenon, marked by the aliens’ utter inactivity. Who are they and why are they here? Are they a threat or do they come bearing gifts?

Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor who’s scooped up by a military colonel (Forest Whitaker) and whisked to the camp that’s been assembled around the pickle hovering over a remote location in Montana.  She meets her colleague in conundrums,  Ian Donnelly, (Jeremy Renner), and we’re off to decode the wizards.

The ensuing developments hone in on deciphering an illusory form of communication, which gets pleasingly cerebral: How to divine a language from scratch that presents as a collection of aural blips and visual blobs. We get to reason it out, bit by bit, as experts experiment with logic, learning, whim, and danger while the rest of the world races for answers and sweats the details.

It’s a smart, quiet journey, involving us in conjecture and dropping clues along side of anxieties as the team delves deeper into discovery. Adams turns in a powerfully understated performance. The cinematography is pleasingly murky and mysterious, the direction by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners) is calm and very… Blue State. Icelander Jóhann Jóhannsson’s electronic film score is hauntingly eclectic, neatly disappearing into the storyline with a palette that reflects the other-worldliness of the visitors.

Here’s a low-key thriller that will engage your mind and leave you with pleasing propositions about space and time. What better distraction could you ask for?

Rated PG-13

1 Hour 52 Minutes

Get times and tickets at

ARRIVAL Review – Hauntingly Cerebal, It Will Make You Think and Think Again



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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

1 Comment

  1. Lani C on November 13, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Great review on “Arrival”. I will go and see it because of your review! Thanks!

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