Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016) Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker; release 11 November

A linguist is recruited by the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecrafts land around the world.

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a welcome addition to a long list of movies about alien visitors to our planet. It’s intelligent, and ventilates some striking ideas about time, and particularly about language (and, somehow, the relationship between the two). However, it suffers from the usual credibility gaps caused by the star system. Lois Lane – sorry, Amy Adams – is much too young to know as much about linguistics as her character does. And there no content at all to the ‘romantic’ relationship between her and Jeremy Renner’s character. They work together like fellow thesps on an SFX film, not at all like actors embodying their characters.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the genre used not only to examine the power of space travel or a post-apocalyptic future but as a way to address common humanity more than futuristic adventure stories. Joining films like Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian is Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious and moving Arrival, a movie that’s about the day the universe changed forever but becomes more focused on a single story even as it’s expanding its worldwide narrative. It is more about grief, time, communication and compassion than it is warp speed, and it’s a film that asks questions. How do we approach that which terrifies us? Why is it important to communicate through language and not action? Brian Tallerico.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 27 February, 2017 | Now: 11 March, 2020