I was hosting a co-PI this past week, and we watched Arrival Sunday night. This will include only minor spoilers, but I’ll put my impression below the fold anyway.
We all loved the movie. My bias is that I’m increasingly frustrated with Hollywood’s inability to make a sci-fi movie that doesn’t involve spaceship dogfights, explosions, and chase scenes. Even adaptations of thoughtful science fiction novels tend to drift toward action movies, to the detriment of the actual stories (Minority Report, anyone?). Not that I don’t enjoy the occasional Western in space (Firefly/Serenity, for example), but I do worry that movies like Moon, Primer and Donnie Darko are a dying breed.
Arrival avoids all these traps, delivering a thoughtful and surprising drama. It was one of the best ‘real’ science fiction movies I’ve seen in several years. Much of the story remains mysterious; we never learn much of what we want to know about the aliens (I guess that’s a bit of a spoiler). We learn enough, though, to move the story along and keep things interesting. And there’s a major plot twist late in the movie that will make you reinterpret a lot of what has gone before. Maybe not a Sixth Sense plot twist, but a pretty good one all the same.
Our only complaint about the movie was regarding the audio volume. As with so many movies, it seemed the dramatic music was about forty times as loud as the dialogue, necessitating a finger always on the volume control. I’m going to invent a home theater system with separate controls for music volume and dialogue volume.
By the way, those links are Amazon Associate links, so if you click them and buy what they go to, I make a commission (as I mentioned in “Counting my millions“). Just so you know.