Rating: PG-13, 116 minutes
In a Nutshell: Earning 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, this intelligent sci-fi thriller features an outstanding performance from Amy Adams that already has garnered Oscar buzz. This fascinating film will tickle your brain and warm your heart.
I didn’t want to post my review right after I saw it, because I wanted it to percolate in my head and process it for a while first. The more I thought about it, the more I loved it. It’s hard to write a review without giving too much away, so I apologize for the spoiler alerts below. It’s better to see the movie “blind”, so to speak, so that you get to experience the unfolding of the story.
"Arriving" at the end of the movie and understanding it is a satisfying journey when you have to work it out in your own mind.
You know a movie has done its job when the audience claps and then slowly walks out of the theater, as they try to contemplate what they have just experienced. That’s what happened when I sat in a packed theater Friday night. I can’t wait for you to see it and read your comments!
“Language is complicated and messy and sometimes it can be both.” – Dr. Louise Banks
This is less about aliens and science fiction, but instead, more about humanity and working together.
“If you could see your whole life start to finish, would you change things?” – Dr. Louise Banks I loved the movie City of Angels and how, despite life being hard and even heart-breaking at times, it’s still worth living….every minute.
Things I liked:
Director Denis Villeneuve usually makes violent, profanity-laced Rated R movies like Sicario and Prisoners, so I was happy to see him offer something else more family-friendly and cerebral.
The cinematography is fantastic. One of the best takes is when we first see the alien spacecraft in a field in Montana with fog drifting over the ridge. Gorgeous. The camera rolls in almost a 360 degree span that is absolutely stunning.
It reminded me a little bit of the movie Signs , which I loved, because of the lingering uneasiness that lasts throughout the entire movie. The tension is handled very well. It also reminded me of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Contact, because of the lessons we learn about humanity and our connection to the universe.
I loved the no-gravity chamber inside the spaceship, especially when the people inside could look far down below at the people walking around. Super cool.
I’m such a nerd that when Dr. Banks’ lecture on the Portuguese language was interrupted, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to hear it. Ha ha
We’ve never seen aliens like this before. We’ve never seen a spaceship like this before. We’ve never seen a written language like this before. Three cheers for creative writers!
I was mesmerized with how the spaceships left the atmosphere….soooo cool.
Did you catch Louise’s earrings at the fancy event when she was talking to General Shang of China (played by Tzi Ma)? If you look closely, you’ll also see that same image repeated on her daughter’s notebook. Pay attention to other places you see a bird in a cage too.
There is a little bit of humor, which audiences always appreciate.
SPOILER ALERT. As a university professor who teaches English, I LOVE that the film revolved around language and trying to communicate with the aliens, yet was really about how we humans communicate with each other. Amy Adams’ character (also a college professor) wrote, “Language is the cornerstone of civilization.” The gift that the aliens brought was perfect.
HUGE SPOILER ALERT!!!! I LOVED the way that time was used in the movie. Because we’re human, we view time as linear. That simple fact makes us believe that what we’re seeing at the beginning of the movie is the beginning of the story. The movie folds over on itself, just as the language of the aliens does. Once Louise realizes that, we also realize what is happening in the story. Very cool.
Things I didn’t like:
Some viewers have complained about the slow pace, but I didn’t mind, because it gave my brain a chance to consider all of the different story angles and messages.
Each encounter with the aliens cut off too soon. I wanted them to last longer.
Jeremy Renner delivers a good performance. Unfortunately, his character doesn’t contribute much and he admits that they wouldn’t be anywhere without Louise. He figures out one thing without her and he makes a really strange decision in the end that I didn’t like.
What was the deal with Forest Whitaker’s weird accent?
There is a lot of quiet mumbling, making it often difficult to understand what people are saying.
Sometimes things were out of focus, which was annoying. I recognize that was an artistic choice, forcing us to focus on a specific thing, but sometimes it just annoyed me; I wanted to see everything!
“If all I ever gave you was a hammer…” – Louise
“Every answer is a nail.” – Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker)
“Memory is a strange thing. It doesn’t work like I used to think. We are bound by time, by its order…” – Louise
“There are days that define your story beyond your life.” - Louise
“You made quick work of those insurgent videos.” – Colonel Weber
“You made quick work of those insurgents.” – Louise
“When was the last time you did something stressful?” – Army doctor
“Does this count? Just saying…” – Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner)
“Yeah. That just happened.” – Ian Donnelly
“Trust me. You can understand communication and still end up single.” - Louise
Tips for parents:
Kids will think the aliens are cool, not too scary.
Yay for science and math!
There are some subtitles your kids will need to read or have read to them.
The one and only person who dropped an F-bomb happened to be an Avenger…Jeremy Renner.