I’m pretty sure that, on Friday, I saw one of my favourite sci-fi films of all time, and in no way was I prepared for it.
Arrival has leap-frogged so many classic films to get to the head of the queue (or almost – I can’t quite decide if it’s top spot or not).
For a start, regardless of genre, it is streets ahead of your average Hollywood filmmaking, in pretty much every category:
It is beautiful – the sight of the alien crafts just hovering above a shroud of mist, so matter-of-fact, yet so full of gosh-darn-it wonder, gets you every time.
The scale – it somehow manages to be both a global epic and a keen micro-drama, balancing both with a deft nuance. The world was at stake, but I’m caring about the little things. It’s a grand feet pulled off with aplomb.
The acting – universally superb, real and personable, with much more accurate-feeling portrayals of scientists than in other films of the genre.
The detail – nothing has been fudged here. The filmmakers have taken something that seems more of an inevitability in some ways (the discovery of alien life) and adopted a real world approach to how it just might go down. It lends the film a level of authenticity that again the genre seems to struggle to usually provide. For an in-depth look at just how far the filmmakers went to make sure things were as realistic and well-thought out as possible, do watch this great piece by Science Vs Cinema:
It’s fresh – in sci-fi, aliens usually only ever visit to dole out bad things to us poor humans. I won’t spoil a thing, but everything about the aliens, their motivations and how we perceive them, is almost entirely new to me as a viewer. I loved it.
It’s hugely affecting – I think this represents the biggest departure from the usual reach of films of this type. I found not just the story, but its delivery and revelations, to be hugely affecting in ways that you have to discover for yourself. It will live with me for weeks. Desperate to expand on this, but so much of the joy to this film is about going in unprepared and unknowing – but the film poses questions that I find myself asking myself repeatedly. It isn’t trite, it isn’t cheap – this is real provocative, thoughtful filmmaking that pushes the audience into uncomfortable corners, through sheer force of reason and authenticity.
It was completely excellent. It is elegant, unexpected, affecting and challenging, and is definitely worth your time.