Arrival review: Amy Adams has close encounter of the third kind


Amy Adams.
Amy Adams.

AMY Adams has a close encounter of the third kind with intergalactic visitors in Arrival, discovering as much about herself and mankind as the aliens within the space ships.

When several UFOs suddenly appear around the world, hovering just metres above the ground at each location, the obvious questions “who or what is inside them?” and “what do they want?” are immediately asked.

Lonely linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and mouthy mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are recruited by US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to communicate with the new visitors and get answers.

Inside the vertical vehicles, the team spend days trying to crack the aliens’ language and understand their intentions but their methods of communicating are challenging.

Eventually, panic begins to set in and communication between countries breaks down, with some leaders fearing the worst from the outer space guests, and their actions could lead to war between the species.

Writer Eric Heisserer, whose career so far has been steeped in horror remakes and sequels, and this year’s surprisingly good Light Out, goes in a completely different direction with his adaptation of Ted Chiang’s short story Story of Your Life.

Swapping slayings for suspense and exterminations for existentialism, Heisserer scripts a thoughtful story about the importance of language, communication and understanding others.

Without getting bogged down in lecture-like monologues about language, Arrival touches on some fascinating points about the intricacies and nuances of how we communicate.

Adams again gives a terrific performance, grounding her character in reality even when the story takes an unusual twist towards the end.

It is a credit to Heisserer that he fleshes out the female lead character but leaves leading man Renner with little to do but provide a couple of forgettable wisecracks.

THE ESSENTIALS

Arrival (M)

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Four stars

Review by Julian Wright

In cinemas now