Arrival is smart, allegorical, often funny and often heart-wrenching. Oh yeah, and there are aliens.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Incendies), 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.