Verdict: So much more than just another alien movie.
If you don't already know, Arrival is based on a short story by Ted Chiang named Story Of Your Life (great read, by the way). While a lot of “cinematic liberties” have been taken in the movie, they are acceptable and fit well. Having said that, we wish a few things had not been left out, but then that's always the case with movies based on literature.
Arrival opens with a heartbreaking incident in the life of Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a well-known linguist. She is seen mourning for her daughter, who loses her life to a rare disease. She lives a linear routine that involves her teaching at the university and returning home. She leaves the TV on, probably to feel less lonely. The world comes to a standstill when 12 extraterrestrial “shells” appear all over the world. That's when US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) approaches Banks for translating a few audio recordings of flapping and guttural sounds, which are obviously not human. Banks says she has no way of translating without meeting “them”. Weber refuses at first citing security reasons. Without Banks, the army has no way to communicate with the aliens and they concede. Louise Banks is flown to the site of the shell, accompanied by theoretical physicist Dr. Ian Donnelly (the very charming Jeremy Renner) to make contact with the “heptapods” to ask them one basic question: “What is your purpose on Earth?”. And thus begins the intriguing Arrival.
Arrival uses music (and silences) to its advantage. Watch out for the scene in which the party is approaching the shell for the first time. The eerie music coupled with simple camerawork will take your breath away. Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner play their roles well, as do the others. However, the movie rests on the very able shoulders of Amy Adams. She not only looks the part but also connects with us with her easy performance. Most of the movie depends upon Louise's expressions, her emoting without words and making the audience empathize with her, and she does it oh-so-successfully!
Arrival is very different from any alien movie you may have seen. Giving out anything else would mean giving out spoilers, and we won't be caught dead doing that. However, the movie seems a tad stretched in a couple of scenes but most of the times, you will find yourself at the edge of your seat. If you are going for mad VFX, then don't. While the VFX are very well done, they are just what the story needs and nothing over the top, not unlike the movie itself. The narrative is non-linear and intriguing but smooth.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
Watch Arrival because you deserve a good alien-based movie. Arrival is intelligent and has a good story that is very well narrated. The script and the performances are tight and will keep you guessing till the penultimate point in the movie.