CANADIAN Dennis Villeneuve is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors. I loved his work on Prisoners, and Sicario was fantastic.

With Arrival, his latest film, he abandons the observation of humanity at its worst and instead opts for something a little more hopeful, while retaining the beautifully bleak and serious aesthetic that his other films exhibit perfectly.

Arrival is based on the book Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, and was written for the screen by Eric Heisserer. The film is a marvellous science fiction film in the tradition of Contact, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Interstellar. While the trailer for the film might evoke Independence Day to some degree, do not go into this film expecting a light-hearted, “lay back and turn off your brain” type of movie.

Arrival was cerebral, and it was challenging. What this means is that audiences need to think about what they are watching. This isn’t to say that the film is not entertaining; rather, it means that some effort needs to be put in to fully enjoy and appreciate what is being shown.

The story involves Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) being recruited by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to assist with deciphering an alien language after 12 mysterious UFOs arrive on Earth.

The film explores how world governments would react to encountering alien life, and how best to communicate with these aliens especially considering there is no one world leader. Who should speak on behalf of all humanity? What are the important questions that should be asked? How would we even communicate with them?

The film was paced slowly, however it was enthralling and never felt slow or boring. The acting was superb, especially dams in a rather subdued yet nuanced performance. I also loved the way the film looked. At times the visuals were vibrant, and others bleak, stark and alien.

I think its also important to note that the film’s sound design was incredibly sophisticated while ultimately simple. This isn’t necessarily a film that will blow you out of your seat with explosions and guns and lasers.

But when it’s required, the film uses audio to affect audiences in very interesting ways through the use of not only clever sound design, but a terrific score.

Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there were plot holes, per se, but I did feel like there were a few unanswered questions after the credits rolled. I am very curious to see if the answers to those questions reveal themselves after multiple viewings, or after I have had a chance to think about the film a bit more.

At its very simplest, this film is about the importance of communication, however there are many other complexities to the story, plot and characters.

I really enjoyed this film and I think it will resonate especially well with fans of the science fiction genre. Highly recommended.

Ryan Mackett is an artist and film enthusiast who resides in Thunder Bay. Email questions or comments to him at

Recommended for you