It’s rare for a sci-fi movie to get nominated for an Oscar but that’s what Arrival, the latest film starring Amy Adams and directed by Denis Villanueve, has succeeded in getting. Not only is the movie in the running for the film industry’s biggest honor, it’s also nominated in 7 other categories at the Academy Awards this coming February 29. While it might be a foregone conclusion that La La Land will be the big winner this year, those who aren’t impressed with Ryan Gosling’s tap-dancing should definitely give Arrival a try.
On its surface, the premise is pretty basic for a sci-fi movie and it’s something we’ve all seen from alien invasion movies like Independence Day and Mars Attacks countless times before. Mysterious spaceships (in the shape of a giant silicon bra in this case) suddenly appear above different cities all over the world and scientists and experts try to figure out what their purpose is. In Arrival, one of those experts is Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who’s unenviable task is to help the US government translate what the aliens are saying and to communicate with them in the process. (So imagine mo kung malaman natin na totoo ang aliens at hindi tayo nag-iisa sa universe, si Amy Adams ang kukuning interpreter ng mga aliens sa Q&A portion ng Miss Universe)
But what Arrival succeeds in doing is to ask interesting questions such as:
“Anong mangyayari kung mag decide si Donald Trump na tirahin ng nuclear warhead yung spaceship dahil feeling niya pinagtatawanan ng aliens yung buhok niya?”
“What if dumating yung aliens sa ibabaw ng West Philippine Sea, mag jejetski kaya si Digong papunta sa gitna ng dagat para paalisin sila?”
See, the thing is we humans don’t have a singular leader to unite all nations. One country might interpret something the aliens said as hostile while others might consider it as benevolent. And with each government having it’s own political agenda, how can you stop a sovereign nation from attacking these aliens and as a result igniting interstellar warfare?
What I like about the movie is how it keeps you on the edge of your seat not through expensive action scenes and over-the-top explosions like a summer blockbuster from Michael Bay would but through great storytelling by director Denis Villanueve. It answers everything one would be curious about in a scenario such as this one. Ano bang meron sa loob ng mga spaceships na to? Paano mo ba sila kakausapin? What exactly is their purpose for being here? And as these things unfold, it’s absolutely rewarding for audiences when they finally realize what exactly is going on and what’s the significance of everything that’s been happening so far. May moment na sasabihin mo sa sarili mo: “Pucha, ganun pala yun!”
Arrival has a tremendous cast with Forest Whitaker playing Col. GT Weber and Jeremy Renner playing Ian Donnelly who is a therotical physicist. Forest Whitaker provides that commanding presence and it’s Jeremy Renner who provides the film with some levity. But it’s Amy Adams that really shines in this movie. She’s great in any movie that she’s in and her presence in this movie keeps it grounded and gives it it’s humanity. Dr. Louise Banks is going through something difficult herself having gone through the loss of a child and this surfaces time and again as she tries to communicate with the aliens. How her internal conflicts play into the story is what makes this movie go from simply being “okay naman siya” into “putek, ang galing ah!” territory.
But as with any sci-fi movie, this film requires a suspension of disbelief in order for it to work. If you overthink certain parts of it too much, you’d question the whole concept on which this film is based on. I imagine how some people would end up being disappointed by the final act. In all honesty, under the hands of a less talented director and actress this would have gone the same route as some of M. Night Shyamalan’s poorly reviewed movies. But instead it accomplishes and improves on what Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar tried to do. It gives us an intelligent science fiction thriller that will long be remembered by those who see it.
4.5 out of 5