This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Amy Adams in a scene from "Arrival." (Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures via AP)
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A smartly-written and thought-provoking film, “Arrival” uses the framework of an alien invasion to explore what it really means to be human.

The film follows Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as she tries to find a way to communicate with aliens after they land on Earth.

“Arrival” tells a simple story about the Earth being visited by aliens and turns it into a deeply emotional and personal journey. The film is smartly written, containing a wealth of detail that helps to build an intricate story. It may require multiple viewings to truly understand it all. While engaging, “Arrival” starts slow and begins to drag before picking up for an exhilarating second half.

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Amy Adams in a scene from "Arrival." (Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures via AP)
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Amy Adams in a scene from “Arrival.” (Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures via AP)

This is forgivable, though, as the film has a great hard sci-fi concept that blends science and morality into one of the best examinations of Humanity in recent film history. “Arrival” also isn’t afraid to present complicated ethical questions to the audience, which may end up leading to different interpretations of the film once it ends.

The cast is small but is led by a terrific performance from Amy Adams, who portrays the right mixture of scientist and everyday citizen. Adams is complimented well by Jeremy Renner, who also gives a strong performance as theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly. Adams and Renner both come across realistically, using a combination of body language and facial expressions to help exemplify their characters’ emotions of awe, fear and frustration.

While the acting is great, the characters themselves are the film’s weakest point. Adams and Renner’s characters never really see much development, as they start off as good people and stay good people. Much of the development actually comes from the minor characters presented throughout the film, from soldiers to politicians, and the aliens themselves. This allows “Arrival” to emphasize the world of the film through different, and believable, viewpoints.

From a visual standpoint, “Arrival” is filled with beautiful shots that emphasize natural landscapes and have a nice weight to them. The darker tones and colors of the film also help to emphasize the feel of the story, and the CGI is works well with the more realistic visual style.

Verdict:

Well-written, beautifully shot and driven by a great performance from Amy Adams, “Arrival” is not only one of the year’s best films, but it is another strong addition to modern sci-fi.

9/10