Ex Machina Has Some company
Arrival (2016): A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.
Wow. Two weeks and two perfect 10s. Hey, remember when this summer sucked for the movie industry? Hard to believe we're in the same year. Arrival is a captivating, engaging science fiction story complete with strong acting, great sound design, wonderful editing, and even a strong score. Helmed by director Denis Villeneuve (director of Sicario and Prisoners) and led by a great performance from Amy Adams, (who had a busy week between this and Noctornal Animals) Arrival left me speechless. I was on the edge of my seat for almost every second of the 116 minute masterpiece, and the big twist at the end was actually believable. I know, big change right? So what made this film so good?
Well, at its forefront is the story. While this story has a major twist towards the end of the film, I found myself not trying to figure out what the twist was because before it came a very believable and grounded film. Very rare do you have such a winning combination of drama, realism, and science fiction. It is far too easy for a movie to lose me early on in it's rationale of how humans respond to something, whether it be artificial intelligence or alien life or whatever the sci-fi film is addressing, but when it doesn't it's almost guranteed to be one of my favorite films of the year. I think one of the big reasons why it felt so realistic is because of the grand scale of the event. You really feel like the entire globe is trying to figure this out and not just Amy Adams in the middle of nowhere, Montana. And the globe respondes the way you would expect the globe to respond. And the countries that go out on a limb are exactly the countries you would expect to go out on a limb. These global tensions play a big role in the third act of this film as well as the twist itself, which as I said, works. It works really really well. I don't want to spoil anything for you, obviously, so I'll just leave it with this: analyzing and understanding the twist is EASILY worth the price of admission alone.
So what else does this film do right? Well I'll first highlight the sound. While it doesn't compete with something like Hacksaw Ridge, I give it as much credit as I do because of how subtle it is. While there is the obvious sound achievement in creating a verbal language not from this planet and doing so convincingly, but there's also a lot of sound cues I enjoyed elsewhere: the muting and highlighting of certain character's voices at points, the choices of alarms, and others. I think the sound team deserves a lot of credit for going above and beyond. I'll also highlight the score, by Johann Johansson, as it was a very not-from-this-world score that fit in perfectly with the rest of the movie. I think Johansson took a few musical cues from John Williams highlighy underrated Close Encounters of the Third Kind score , but that's just me. Finally, the editing here was seamless, as editor Joe Walker did a marvelous job with the extremely tall task that he's asked to do to help explain the twist.
I really can't find any faults with this film. Even as I sit here and analyze the hell out of it, I can't do it. That is a truly marvelous feat for a film to have this intricate a story. I gave Ex Machina a perfect 10 last year too, but even its story is not as good as Arrival. I cannot stress this enough: go see it. Expect to hear it again as I talk about my favorite movies of 2016, because it is definitely going to be a strong contendor for my number one movie of the year.
The Critique: A gripping and engaging sci-fi narrative combined with a strong performance from Amy Adams make this an easy contender for the best movie of 2016.
The Recommendation: A must-watch for everyone, regardless of whether you like sci-fi or not.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
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