The report on Arrival, which Jules and I saw last night.
OK so I quite enjoyed it. In an attempt to not spoil too much about it and in the realm of almost meaningless and pointless numerical ratings, I give it an eight. I don’t remember whether I gave Sicario an eight, I think so, probably for different reasons, so I’ve no idea whether that means anything to you.
Nevertheless some considerations some of you may need to bear in mind:
I thought the pacing was divine and a whole bunch of other punters around the traps have called the film slow, so there you have it. The fact that I thought it wasn’t slow at all may inform you of where you may fall on the plot if you know what my tastes are like. What I’ll say about Villeneuve is that only once I did actually find him too slow and that was for Prisoners, in which I thought he mis-handled a slow-burn. In the same year, he managed to shoot Enemy which was shorter and yet achieved a much better result. A few years later he unleashed Sicario which of-course I love.
Narrative-wise, again, without spoiling too much, I thought the main narrative arc and the film’s subtexts were all handled exceptionally well, so much so that I was really rather pleased with what I came away with as The Point (which certainly has nothing to do with aliens or invasions/visitations). I find this isn’t really obscured much at all or not intended to be any kind of twist, Villeneuve makes it pretty clear what’s up and the payoff for me at least is worth it because I guess I’m always in it for a narrative about people over one about aliens, especially when one is used as a context in service to the other.
If there’s a point of minor critique I’d offer, it’s that I miss Villeneuve’s pairing with photographer Roger Deakins as on past projects. Arrival’s cinematography was shot by Bradford Young who does a very good job, with some very creative frames early on especially when we’re introduced to the aliens, however it peters-off as the narrative sweeps through the second act. Colour palettes match the tone of the film and are serviceable, well suited to distinguishing shifts in narrative arcs that will become apparent when viewing (trying to avoid spoilers here) but again, they’re not quite as striking as in previous films or films by other cinematographers.
Amy Adams does an outstanding job in the central role, though, as it’s one requiring subtlety and nuance and plenty of both (can one require plenty of subtlety? I think so). I’ve admired her acting diversity in a number of projects and it’s great to see her in a sombre project like this, especially given a generous amount of screen time versus her counterpart in Jeremy Renner whose performance is quite decent. Also noteworthy is Forest Whitaker’s underplayed military colonel - decently militant but not bursting with cliched fruit flavour. Whitaker’s always great on screen anyway.
So I liked it. I liked it a lot. Should you watch it? I’ve no idea. I feel like for most, it’s likely to be boring or too slow - I don’t know. I don’t really watch any of the things most people watch, in short-format episodic form or in long-format form, so I’m not sure my tastes are anything to go by. To be honest, without trying to sound too much like an arsehole, if something like, say, Boyle’s Sunshine is more your bag, then maybe give it a miss. This is definitely in the realm of Zemeckis’ Contact in the tone and pacing of Soderbergh’s Solaris, and of the three films, you can probably tell which two I favour and which one I revile.