Such is the sheer amount of ludicrous science fiction movies that it’s deeply refreshing when one comes along that adheres to the genre’s best values of thoughtful extrapolation and human engagement. Space battles and laser guns certainly have their place, but so do attempts to use far-fetched original ideas to explore the human condition. This is an outstanding example of the latter, a masterful piece of filmmaking that takes a bunch of very talented people all working at the top of their game to spin a decent yarn that makes you question quite deeply such notions as the nature of time and our limitations when it comes to earnest communication.

It’s a fiercely intelligent script by Eric Heisserer (adapted from a short story) that mercifully ignores any action scenes in favour of character development throughout, and is anchored by another extraordinary central performance by Amy Adams, who keeps everything rooted in a very believable, human tale. It also looks absolutely gorgeous, with Bradford Young’s cinematography bathing the extraterrestrial encounters with unsettling light, and the disturbingly sparse score maintaining a palpably tense atmosphere. This is all brought together with consummate skill by Denis Villeneuve, who is surely one of the hottest directors in Hollywood at this point, and this is probably the closest he’s come to an outright masterpiece.

ARRIVAL
A reminder that, when done properly, science fiction can be just as artful and sophisticated as any arthouse film9
Eric Heisserer's perfectly-judged script which focuses on the sci-fi ideas and human drama over the guns and spaceships10
Another emotive and instantly empathetic lead performance from Amy Adams9
Some exquisite use of light from cinematographer Bradford Young9
Denis Villeneuve is arguably the most consistently brilliant director working in America right now9
Bechdel Test passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test failures
  • n/a
9Overall Score

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