Arrival is a sci-fi drama directed by Denis Villeneuve, who I think is one of the better directors working today with previous films like Sicario and Prisoners under his belt, and it is about mysterious aliens spaceships coming down to our blue planet and our attempt at understanding why.
The movie focuses on the character of Amy Adams, who's a renowned linguist and is recruited to help the US army communicate with the visitors. She gives one of the best performances of her career here, and I hesitate to reveal anything more in the case of spoiling anything, so I'll just say that her character arc was profoundly moving. She is accompanied by several side characters, notable ones being portrayed by Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, and they both delivered good performances.
Now the way this movie approached the aliens scenario was my favorite thing in Arrival. The focus on language and communication felt like a fresh take. It was really intriguing to see Amy Adams' character work out the details in order to communicate. Also, you feel like you're alongside the characters, witnessing this monumental first contact ( a proper one). The way Villeneuve constructed the scenes, slow-paced and tension filled, just kept on building the anticipation till the very end, and delivering some heavy punches.
Of course, most of that would not have been possible without the gorgeous cinematography and the soundtrack. This movie looks beautiful in every shot. And there are some truly jaw dropping long takes, my favorite being the long wide take when you first see the ship. The music, composed by Johan Johannsson, was hauntingly beautiful and one of my favorite from 2016. And to add on top of that, the opening and ending scenes were accompanied by the genius Max Richter's track 'On the nature of daylight', which upped the emotional ante to a new level.
The way the story wraps up is very interesting, to say the least, and it makes you ponder a lot. There were some elements that I kinda predicted beforehand, BUT there were some that really made me go WOW.
Regarding flaws of Arrival, the most notable one for me was the lack of interesting side-characters relative to the lead. Apart from maybe Jeremy Renner's character, I didn't really feel connected to anyone else. Also, Forest Whitaker's accent was a bit iffy.
Overall, this was a great sci-fi film, the type of film where you just stare at the screen long before the movie has finished and just contemplate on what you have experienced. A re-watch highlights the subtleties in direction and story. This is not an alien invasion movie with action/destruction etc, which I've seen people complain without knowing that first, so if you are looking for that, you will be disappointed. Otherwise, this is one hell of a movie, one of my favorite from 2016, and I highly recommend it.