Posted: November 21, 2016 in Travel

On top of being depressing as hell for reasons I don’t need to elaborate on any further, 2016 has quietly been a shit-tastic year for movies. I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to find a way to travel back in time so I can reclaim the 160 minutes of my life I wasted on watching Batman vs. Superman. And don’t even get me started on that unspeakably fucking terrible cinematic abortion that was the Independence Day sequel.

But today, the year in movies may have been salvaged a little. I saw “Arrival.” Not only did this movie deliver an experience that I was neither expecting nor ready for, it provided a broader perspective on life right now that I found most welcoming.

The premise seems simple enough — an alien race lands on Earth and makes first contact. The planet is thrown into a state of panic despite the spacecraft not showing the slightest sign of aggression. The US military recruits a linguistics professor (Amy Adams) and a theoretical physicist (Jeremy Renner) with the hope of figuring out why they’re here, and what they want.

What follows is nothing short of transcendent filmmaking. For a setting as grandiose and dramatic as the one “Arrival” takes us to, its true focus is on the most basic of what makes us human: language, and how we communicate as a species. Within that larger theme is a very personal and emotional story of Amy Adams’ character, and her story is as fascinating as the larger theme of extraterrestrial visitors coming to Earth.

But for as ambitious as “Arrival” is, this is a science fiction movie that’s more science than fiction. Amazingly, I found I didn’t need to suspend my disbelief that much while watching it. Credit the empathetic Renner and Adams trying to understand the greatest moment in human history for that. This is “Contact” for an older, wiser, and slightly more pensive audience, with a dash of the raw emotion in “Interstellar.”

Maybe it’s the state of the world today. Maybe it’s my lifelong fascination with the almost inevitable truth that we are not alone in the universe. Maybe it’s a little column A, and a little column B. But “Arrival” is subtle in its delivery, beautifully filmed, and superbly acted. It’s a compelling work that reaches for the sky, but ironically enough, by the time the credits are rolling, it’s not the aliens we learn the most about – it’s ourselves.


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