TIFF 2016: Arrival is Smart, Emotional Sci-Fi Stunner 

click to enlarge Amy Adams trying to communicate in Arrival - PARAMOUNT PICTURES
  • Paramount Pictures
  • Amy Adams trying to communicate in Arrival


Arrival is smart, allegorical, often funny and often heart-wrenching. Oh yeah, and there are aliens.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve (SicarioIncendies), Amy Adams is at her vulnerable best as a linguist called upon by the U.S. government to communicate with a series of space ships that recently landed at twelve locations across the world. A theoretical physicist (Jeremy Renner) joins her to help crack the aliens' code.

Arrival will no doubt be a slam-dunk winner for traditional sci-fi fans, but convince the person in your life who doesn't like sci-fi films to see this movie with you. It isn't Alien, Star Wars, Star Trek or even The Martian, and not since 1997's Contact, have I had such an emotional appreciation for a sci-fi film than while enjoying the premiere of Arrival at the Toronto International Film Festival. I'm not alone in my praise: At the Friday screening, the audience (nearly all of them critics) gave Arrival a rousing ovation.

Arrival is based on the 1999 novella "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang, and it's filled with introspection of humanity's greatness and great shortcomings. Villeneuve has crafted a masterful balance of action and delicate interaction, and Arrival is poised become one of the big audience-pleasing surprise hits of the holiday season. 


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