Wednesday 21 December 2016

Arrival ... Taut, intelligent and fawning to US army

AMERICA is a peace-loving country that leaves the sabre rattling and belligerence to Russia and China. This is what viewers will get after watching Canadian director Dennis Villeneuve's Arrival.  It's also about a woman navigating a minefield of male egos and the army.
    The film spouts linguistic theories and how a language affects the way people think. Furthermore, the down-to-earth and radiant performance of Amy Adams will keeps viewers engrossed in this sci-fi drama that's wrapped around US army strength, and she full deserves her Golden Globe nomination for best actress. The non-linear structure of the film is also enticing.

  The film is written by Eric Heisserer and Ted Chiang, based on Chiang's science-fiction short story titled Story of Your Life (1998).
   Adams, who loved Superman to bits in Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), is thrown into the deep end of a global crisis that involves the arrival of aliens in 12 gargantuan monolithic space ships and are known as heptapods because of their seven-legged squid appearance. To get an idea of the heptapods, think back to the aliens in Independence Day (1996) and Independence Day: Resurgence (2016).
  Adams is linguistics Professor Louise Banks, who, at the beginning of the film, is mourning the death of
Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is surrounded
 by men in most of the film.
 her teenage daughter from a disease. She enjoys drinking wine alone in her huge lakeside house.
   But the arrival of the aliens compels the army, especially Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), to draft her into its service to interpret the aliens' language. She is aided by bespectacled theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner).
  I had no idea what Arrival was about when I stepped into the cineplex, and so I was naturally confused when the film flip-flopped between the past, present and future.
   What I thought was the past (you'll need to see the film to understand this) was actually something that happened in the future, and this is how Banks will interpret events to help her resolve the encounter with the aliens.
   It's interesting to note that women are portrayed as peace-loving and wanting to resolve conflicts without shedding a drop of blood. The film is also about how language affects our perception of life, and how we choose to go down a certain path in life even though we know the consequences of that decision.
  The film asks viewers if they would choose a similar path if they knew what would happen in the future.
Adams gets ready to step into the unknown.
 But the screenplay also shows a nervous China, represented by General Shang (Tzi Ma), and Russia threatening to go to war with the peace-loving but hard-to-decipher aliens.
   For me, the film became science fiction when it showed the US army exhibiting restraint.
  Another idea raised by the film is people's treatment of aliens, or illegal immigrants. People often view those who are different from them negatively. Arrival can be seen as a pro-immigrant film, especially when illegals (aliens) are now constantly harangued and harassed by society.
   Europe has more than one million Muslim immigrants in its midst, the US dares not look south to Mexico, and in Asia, Myanmar is oppressing its own Rohingya Muslim people.
   And after Monday's Berlin truck attack on a Christmas bazaar, suspected to have been caused by an IS follower, will people's perception of illegals fall further?
4 out of 5 stars
The writing's on the movie screen.

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