Watch CBS News

"Arrival" Savannah Film Festival Movie Review

"Arrival" Savannah Film Festival Movie Review


Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Film was reviewed at the Savannah Film Festival screening.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is reliving her life with her daughter in her dream. We see her give birth and experience that first bonding moment between a mother and her child. We see happy times as Louise interacts with her baby, and she grows into a toddler, exploring the world in the wondrous ways that young children do. We see her birthday parties and having picnics outside. We also see heartbreak, when as a teenager; Louise's daughter acts up just like any other teenager do. All this happiness comes crashing down when we see that her daughter in her teens is suddenly sick. We see the torment of having to see your child suffer as she slowly dies, experiencing her last breath in a hospital. Louise is only saved from further pain from the alarm clock.

Louise is a professor of comparative linguistics teaching language and linguistics at a local university. It seems since the death of her daughter her world is all about teaching and studying languages, living alone in the big house her daughter grew up in. As she walks towards her classroom on campus, she notices that the student body is much more animated and active than usual. She makes her way into her classroom, which contains only a handful of students. Almost in an instant, the student's phones start ringing. A student asks her to turn on the TV, and they are shocked to find out that twelve massive alien spaceships have landed in various spots around the earth. It's very evident that no work is going to be done on this day.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Back at her office, she is visited by a group of men from the Army, led by Col. Weber (Forest Whitaker). They want help communicating with the aliens, and since Dr. Banks had previously helped the Army translate some Farsi for a military operation, she has security clearance. Col. Weber even plays a bit of recorded audio that the Aliens have voice, seemingly attempting to communicate, but Dr. Banks can't make much from the recording. She insists that the only way she has a chance to figure out what the aliens are saying is to meet them in person, which is a deal breaker for Col. Weber. Days pass by with the whole world wondering why the aliens have come and do they mean to hurt us? In the middle of the night, Dr. Banks is awakened by a military helicopter landing on her front lawn and Col Weber telling her to come and meet the aliens. Louise is about to go on a journey that is not only going to change her life but change the way the world works.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

With splashes of Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Nolan's "Interstellar" and Zemeckis's "Contact", director Denis Villeneuve brings us highly creative, original and moving film about attempting to communicate with a species that seems so different from us, but just might be coming from the same common ground. Louise has to use not only her intellect to try to communicate with the aliens but also must use her humanity as well. The closer she comes to breaking through to communicate with the Aliens, the more she has to deal with the pain and loneliness of her life without her daughter. It seems that with every encounter with the aliens, Louise has more and more flashbacks about her daughter's life. Louise is forced to work with Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg), a CIA agent who sees the aliens as a threat and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a military scientist who thinks science, not linguistics will be the key to communication. The team is hampered by the world's government's that not only don't trust the aliens but also don't trust each other enough to share valuable information. Countries such as Russia and China see the aliens as a threat and begin preparing for war. Louise and her team are under the gun to communicate with the aliens and prove that they are not anything to fear but someone to embrace.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The screenplay, written by Eric Heisserer (based on a story by Ted Chiang) is full of twists and turns that slowly reveal an ending that I found completely satisfying and potent. Villeneuve's direction skillfully moves back and forth from a Sci-Fi story line to more of one that has the makings of a political intrigue film. The cinematography by Bradford Young is at times magical in its look and feel, especially the first few encounters between Louise's team and the aliens.

Adams is scintillating as the woman who is the key to being able to communicate the aliens. She gives a multi-layered performance that shows Louise's strength and her vulnerability, sometimes at almost the same time. Adams has always projected a likeability in her performances, and it's essential in this film as we, the audience, have to be able to root for her character to persevere, no matter how small the rabbit hole she is taking us down. There are some charming moments between Renner and Adams, especially as the film moves along and their two characters experience together things that no one else will ever have the chance to do.

"Arrival" is full of wonder and amazement while creating a tension-filled ending that you will be thinking about long after this film has left the theaters. If we do ever encounter aliens, let's hope we have the brains and leadership that are displayed in this film.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
For more information on the Savannah Film Festival, go to

"Arrival" Webpage

For more of Mike's reviews and interviews click here

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.