BFI London Film Festival Review: Arrival (Villeneuve, 2016)

Arrival premiered in Venice last month and this month opened at the BFI London Film Festival. I was able to go to a screening of the film at Odeon Leicester Square yesterday and I was extremely impressed, both with the film but also with the organisation of the BFI who hosted the festival.

Arrival is a science fiction film directed by Denis Villaneuve and starring Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams. Adams and Renner are academics who are recruited by the US military to study and work with aliens, named Heptapods, who have landed in 12 locations across the globe.

I loved this film. Visually, the film was stunning; the cinematography and stylisation was beautiful and eerie, emphasising the main character’s lonesomeness in some scenes. The performances of actors such as Renner and Forest Whitaker were great, but Amy Adams really was amazing, and a character you could easily root for.

What really spoke to me about the film was that, even though it was a science fiction film with an alien element, it was fundamentally a human story, dealing with how humans would react to a situation like this, and how the political and military situations would react and change. The opposition of military and science within the film felt more human to me than how it is handled in other films; it felt like there were two sides of people wanting to do what they thought was right, either for the mission or themselves, rather than just stereotypical sides of fight vs study, although this opposition is somewhat of a formulaic trope.  The film emphasises human nature and emotion, which I feel separates it away from other films of its genre.

However, while I really enjoyed the film, I also felt that it had some faults. I felt there were a couple of scenes towards the end that did not fit very well, and seemed to me like almost a deus ex machina, however, they do still work within the context of the story. Generally, however, I felt that it is a visually stunning film with a strong plot that I would highly reccommend.



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