“Arrival” is Amy Adams’ moment to shine.
By Skip Sheffield
I have always admired Amy Adams as an actress, but never has she been asked to carry an entire movie on her slim shoulders.
Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist at an unnamed college. Ms. Banks is approached out of the blue by Col. Weber (Forest Whitaker), who is trying to make sense of an invasion by 12 oval-shaped spaceships that are now hovered in 12 locations around the world.
Dr. Banks drops everything to do this mission. In the real world one might protest, wait a minute, what about her classes? One might also wonder how she scored such a dreamy seafront apartment on a teacher’s salary.
But this is not real life. This is science fiction, written by Eric Heissener from a story by Ted Chang, and directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario”).
Science fiction has come a long way since “The Day The Earth Stood Still” (1951), with its deathless pronouncement “klaatu barada nikto.” Dr. Banks is charged with figuring out what the aliens, who look like giant octopi, with extra tentacles, want from us humans. The answer is surprising, and not scary.
Science fiction movies are often cautionary tales. Humans tend to fear the unknown. Certainly these weird creatures are not warm and cuddly. Dr. Banks is a linguist who seems to know every current language. The aliens communicate not with words but inky blotches. Jeremy Renner is along for the ride more for moral support than anything else. Dr. Banks needs it. She still mourns the death of her daughter to a rare, fatal disease. Tzi Ma plays the hawkish Chinese Gen. Chang, who thinks the answer is to blow the critters into oblivion.
“Arrival” is the best science fiction movie I have seen in many years. It makes you think, which is a good thing.