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What a heart breaking and beautiful film, what a terrible and beautiful ending! Over the days after seeing it, I got hit by the film again and again, in a way that rarely happened. That had nothing to do with this being about aliens arriving at Earth, but by the film featuring a woman who learns some painful truths about life.

There is a case for arguing that the film is not about aliens at all, but about the insight that life deals with mortality and about the insight that this is the one aspect of life you can do nothing about.

Amy Adams is the film’s heart and soul, and while you may wonder at the beginning why it is that she is somehow shoehorned into the position of being chief negotiator with whatever life form it is that descends upon our planet, it all makes perfect sense at some point.

The film plays with time lines in a very intelligent and crafty way, never cheating the audience, never going for the cheap thrill of the “aha!” moments. There are moments of “aha!”, but they all embrace the whole of the story, creating completeness rather than sudden twists and turns less talented writers would have fallen for. Denis Villeneuve excels again: Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, Arrival… what a run!. Together with screenwriter Eric Heisserer he has created a masterful bit of cinema that stuns narratively and visually. You can dive into the beauty of the alien’s communication patterns, can enjoy the astonishing sound and production design, while at the same time never abandoning the admiration for the serious storytelling you are experiencing. But to stress it: This film looks so BEAUTIFUL! The production design of the spaceship, the design of the visual language they use for communicating with the aliens… stunning! The visual and acoustic beauty serves the story of this woman, who brings all her talent and knowledge to the table, takes risks and is rewarded in an existential way, both cruel and beautiful.

Of course, praise also goes to Jeremy Renner, who serves as some form of facilitator for Amy Adams’ path, and to the other supporting cast such as Forest Whitaker and Tzi Ma, all positioned perfectly. At the end of the day, it’s still Adams’ film and hers alone.  Want to see again!

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/arrival_2016

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