Arrival Blu-ray Review
What’s It About? Sci-fi film Arrival takes an essentially simple tale of first contact and spins it into a high-quality, powerful piece of cinematic storytelling.
Verdict: Basing their tale on a short story, director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer infuse the film with an effective air of mystery, and manage to let the story breathe while still bringing everything together in just under 2 hours.
As an expert linguist charged with finding out why the aliens are here, Amy Adams puts in a sublimely subtle performance, full of intelligence, depth, and humanity. And the on-screen chemistry between Adams and Jeremy Renner, who gives quietly solid support as a theoretical physicist, feels strikingly natural.
The real-world, muted and misty hues of Bradford Young’s cinematography help ground the film’s sci-fi elements and create an attractive contrast with the lightness and delicate touch he brings to the film’s family moments. In fact, the whole film is equally elegantly designed, with sleek and beautifully pared down visuals and audio, thanks to the efforts of production designer Patrice Vermette, artist Carlos Huante and VFX supervisor Louis Morin’s work on the look of the spaceship and aliens, artist Martine Bertrand’s intriguing design of the aliens’ written language, and sound designer Dave Whitehead’s clever creation of the alien’s spoken language, all of which I adored.
A slow-burn, contemplative film, Arrival manages to convey a genuine sense of wonder about an event of potentially earth-shattering global significance, but it does so in an increasingly intimate way. I’ve got to give a very well-deserved shout-out to the film’s editor Joe Walker, whose work you’ll have seen on films such as Steve McQueen’s Hunger and Villeneuve’s Sicario. Walker does a superb job maintaining the story’s intrigue as he guides us gently backwards and forwards between the film’s narrative threads.
Like all great sci-fi, Arrival is about so much more than humankind’s first contact with alien lifeforms. Life-changing as that situation would be, what Arrival actually deals with are more immediate issues: in other words, how we communicate and miscommunicate as well as the choices we make in our lives. It’s a fascinating film that will likely keep you thinking about its ideas as well as its ending for a good while after it’s finished. Without spoiling anything about the ending for you, I’ll just say that you’re given enough to work out what’s going on at several points along the way before the final scenes roll around.
Although Arrival does indulge in some clichés and the odd slightly cheesy line or moment, particularly towards its conclusion, there’s so much to love about this film, its fiercely low-key vibe, the way it’s so stunningly fashioned in its entirety, that such things are easily forgiven.
Blu-ray Extras: Given that Arrival is such a rich and intriguing film, it’s great to see such an abundance of extras provided with the home entertainment release. Expect over 70 mins of special features including fascinating insights into Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival; Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design; Nonlinear Thinking: The Editorial Process; Principles of Time, Memory, & Language
Final Words: Arrival is a classily crafted slice of sci-fi that takes you on an intriguing and affecting journey that’s driven to new heights thanks to a star turn by Amy Adams, and stellar work by the production’s editor and designers in both the visual and sound departments.
Arrival is available on Blu-ray, Blu-ray Steelbook, and DVD from 20 March 2017, and digitally now.