Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve follows up “Incendies“, “Prisoners”, “Enemy” and “Sicario” with his most ambitious movie yet. “Arrival” is a first rate science-fiction movie: Clever, completely immersive and hauntingly beautiful. In short: it’s a masterpiece. But artistic ambition can be a bitch in this day and age. Audiences seeking a straightforward story might complain about the film’s many symbolic moments in the same way people complained about Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris”, now an acknowledged classic. Lucky for us, Villeneuve follows his own creative path, and the result is nothing short of a triumph. And yet on the surface, the story couldn’t be more straightforward: aliens land on planet earth. A linguist (Amy Adams, in one of the best performances of her career) is recruited by the military to find out what their intentions are. That’s it. No need for you to know more, which is why it’s difficult to talk about “Arrival” without revealing key plot points. The script has plenty of surprises up its sleeve, relying on dream sequences to convey emotions, scored by Johan Johannsson, who also worked on the brilliant “Sicario”. But it’s cinematographer Bradford Young who links these dream sequences with reality by creating some of the most unforgettable images you’ll ever see in a science-fiction film. Is Villeneuve overreaching? Sure. Most great filmmakers do. His film is a groundbreaker, a personal vision of humanity that dares to aim high. No one with a genuine interest in life, death and the purpose of mankind would think of missing it. It’s one of the year’s very best movies, if not the best.
★★★ Very good