Arrival – LFF Review


Aliens have landed! But in emotional indie style rather than in exploding world domination fashion. Think Monsters rather than Independance Day and then forget I mentioned Monsters as Arrival is completely different. Where was I? Aliens have landed! And it is up to linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to figure out how to communicate with them, with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) at her side. Hurrying her along is the US army who desperately want to know if the aliens come in peace or war and want the answers before anyone else. Twelve alien crafts have arrived and Louise is tasked with communicating with the one ship hovering just above US soil. I can’t wait for the spin-off film around the ship that landed in Devon…

As Louise starts to learn the aliens’ unique form of communication she feels the pressure from military representative Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) as the army loses trust in her, the alien visitors, and the rest of the world. Interspersed with beautifully shot visits with the aliens and complicated exposition about sentence structures are flashbacks to Louise’s daughter. The flashbacks did not sit well with me initially; I was enjoying a sciency scene of a linguistic nature then suddenly we’re back with a little girl talking about something tangentally related. I thought the filmmakers were awkwardly crowbarring in some depth to the character but could not have been more wrong.


The film’s use of flashbacks is so ingenious that I cannot really talk about them without ruining the film’s biggest treats. Let’s just say that the flashbacks come good in the end and I probably won’t appreciate them fully until I watch Arrival for a second time. Arrival is very deceptive that way. On first watch the film is a solid and beautifully shot science fiction that falls under the banner of good rather than great but in the days since I saw it my mind has been percolating and reflecting on what I saw. Maybe Arrival is great after all?

I definitely need to see it for a second time.

Director Denis Villeneuve has tackled a variety of genres from the surrealist Enemy, thrilling Prisoners, and recently hit the mainstream with Sicario. With Arrival he maintains a beautiful aesthetic alongside a structure that cleverly hides from the viewer what is happening even as they watch it happen. This is science fiction that doesn’t treat weaponry and creature effects as the be all and end all but prioritises the human element and the all important fictional science; the big idea. Science fiction should be about ideas; about a big “what if” and should explore that idea to its natural conclusion. Arrival does this wonderfully.

I did not immediately love Arrival on first viewing. With time and reflection it has really grown on me and a second watch is definitely needed.

And then surely soon:

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol – Review

We recently attended the UK premiere of the upcoming spy-fi action extravaganza, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and we’ll be frank: it is awesome. Okay, we tell a lie, the premiere that Tom Cruise et al attended was at another cinema the same evening, but that part about the film being awesome? Deadly accurate.

Ghost Protocol sees Ethan Hunt (Cruise) in a dark place. He is no longer with his beloved wife, he is locked up in a brutal Russian prison and the IMF (Impossible Missions Force – duh) has just been framed for exploding the Moscow Kremlin, driving military tensions higher than those during the Cold War. In order to clear the IMF’s name as a terrorist group and the United States as a reckless child with nuclear warheads, Ethan and his co-disavowees must uncover and foil a globally devastating plot.

The Mission: Impossible series of films are a consistent bunch in that they all (well, maybe not M:I 2) feature relevant, complex plots with a heavy dose of sexy and stunning action – which permits the spectator to gloss over and forget their own mundane lives; allowing them to believe in an utterly dangerous and OTT world of spy action.

Director, Brad Bird (The Simpsons, The Incredibles) has gone out of his way to create the meticulous Ghost Protocol, applying his animated past’s pedantic creativity to constantly keep us thoroughly engaged. Of course, he also had help from the methodical writings of André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum: veteran scribes on producer JJ Abrams’ spy-fi show, Alias.

For once, and similar to the original television series, Ghost Protocol does its best to create a tight-knit group of characters rather than focusing entirely on Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, adding a certain level of intimacy that was lacking in the previous films. Albeit man-boobed, Cruise is again on top form, going so far as realizing his own stunts dangling a mile above earth on the Burj Khalifa; Jeremy Renner captures all with his stubborn and secretive Brandt; and Simon Pegg only cements his US mainstream success as nerd Benji, whose British humour creates the majority of the film’s most awesome moments. Aside from the sexiness of Pegg, there is plenty of female beauty to fall back on to as well with the powerfully dominant Paula Patton and assassin seductress Lea Seydoux.

To truly capture the size of Ghost Protocol, see it on the biggest screen you can find as Brad Bird has defied all with his first live action blockbuster. Even when you question the film – like, ‘how does Ethan survive four car crashes when I wimp out over a paper cut?’; the disavowing of Ethan’s marriage is sure to upset many (although, Bird and co work around that excellently *taps nose*); and some of the CGI is just staggeringly bad – you will enjoy the film far too much to even think about those kinds of hair-splitting idiosyncrasies. Plus, Tom Cruise once again fills his obligatory running quota so it can’t be all that bad, right? Right.

*hums Mission: Impossible theme whilst purchasing a ticket to see the film again*