We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.
However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.
So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy. 2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.
TLDNW: 1 Word
TLDNW: 20 Words
Inception horns. Lost in Translation… in SPACE! Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams’ best work since American Hustle! (woof)
TLDNW: 500 Words
Four out of Four Stars
People keep asking me if I liked Moonlight or La La Land better. Which film should win best picture? It’s the Batman Vs. Superman of the Oscars this year. Well my favourite is Arrival. While others are fighting over Batman verses Superman I’m amped about Wonder Woman. (Read Batman as La La Land, Moonlight as Superman and Wonder Woman as Arrival if you need a map to THAT metaphor).
And that is exactly what Arrival is – wonderful. I’m nervous about it though. I’m nervous that the point of the film has been missed. I’m nervous that it will, in history, be remembered as a flashy science fiction film and not a film about humanity. Moonlight and La La Land will be remembered for their humanity but Arrival will be remember for a great twist and a great score and a great cast but for its sci-fi-ness and not for its deeply affecting message about humanity. Not to say the film isn’t flashy. It has one of the best wide pans I’ve ever seen. Using the Jaws principal we don’t get to see the alien spacecraft until Villeneuve wants us to see it.
Well I’m here to help remedy that. This is also means there are spoilers ahead (like ending of the movie spoilers, so tread with caution if you haven’t seen this one yet).
Okay now that we’ve gotten rid of those LOSERS let’s get into it.
Arrival takes place in a not so distant future where twelve alien spaceships have landed on earth and for one hour a day they invite humans inside to speak with them. Enter Amy Adams’ Louise Banks, a linguist and loner, who must help decipher what the aliens want on earth. It is slowly revealed that understanding of the alien language also helps humans learn that time is non-linear and grants them a view at their own past and future. The whole time you’re watching the film you know there’s going to be a twist. You know there’s information that you don’t give you but Denis Villeneuve decides exactly when he wants you to know what’s going on. He is a master of the cinematic tease. But here’s the thing – the twist is a distraction. It distracted me and it’s certainly distracting others. The movie is better and bigger than the twist.
The film is about unity. The code that the aliens deliver to earth is split into twelve parts. The nations of the world have to combine their knowledge to understand the message. There is a particularly tense sequence (and might I say Villeneuve is the master of suspense even in a non-horror movie) where the Chinese government cuts contact with the rest of the world and other leaders follow suit and the realization washes over the audience that independent nations CAN’T do it alone.
In a time when the world is decisively divided this type of film is important. It asks the question, “what if our division is our downfall?” It places our uncertainty about the future of earth into such an extreme circumstance that it highlights important aspects of our nature as people. It says that we NEED each other.
As for the ending which people are upset about – a little “deus ex machina” for some – wouldn’t it make sense that the Chinese General also has an understanding of the language and can see the future and would see how it works out? This only strengthens the idea of humanity and empathy.
It is funny that a film with giant aliens is perhaps the most human of the year.