Review: "Arrival" with Dr. Jessica Coon Interview
Arrival is a spectacle of a movie. Director Denis Villeneuve created one of the most immersive film experiences of 2016. I was consistently on the edge of my seat as I watched Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) struggle to communicate with aliens that have landed on Earth. When 12 alien vessels, called “shells” by the military, land across the world, Dr. Banks, a linguist professor, and Ian Donnelly, a quantum physicist, attempt to converse with the shell that lands in Montana using their different skills -- the humanities and sciences, respectively.
The story and character development is really where the emotion and beauty of the film come from. Watching Banks decrypt the written language of the aliens while being pressured by the military and other foreign nations makes the audience stay engaged for the entire film. As the movie progresses, you can see the further degradation of Banks’ mind from the stress and lack of sleep. But the heart of the movie comes from the plotline involving Banks’ daughter. We see her daughter die in the hospital within the first few minutes of the film, and how Banks deals with that trauma and moves forward in life displays Adams’ incredible acting range. What made my viewing experience so great was seeing the story slowly revealed in front of me.
Arrival is a story on how society might deal with alien invasion, but it is much more about Banks, leaving the background of other characters underdeveloped. The film makes the choice to focus on a singular character, who is based on a real person, Dr. Jessica Coon, a linguist professor at McGill University. The Eagle was able to partake in an interview with her and was able to get a deeper look and understanding of how Arrival was made.
Coon read through the screenplay and provided corrections on how a linguist would act when doing field work. She helped Adams develop her character as a linguistics professor, what her office would look like and how she would be thinking as a linguist. Adams’ office “looks exactly like a linguist professor’s McGill office,” Coon said in her interview.
In addition, the atmosphere of the movie was quite amazingly done. From Banks’ office to the inside of the spaceship, all the shots were beautiful. The visual effects that created the shells and the aliens were so beautiful and well done and the expansive shots of Montana were gorgeous. All the editing and cinematography helped show the emotions as well as the changing story through the eyes of Banks. However, although the scenes were aesthetically pleasing, the night shots were a little too dark.
I really want audiences to know that this film is enjoyed best when you go in blind to it; don’t watch too many trailers, don’t read reviews that go in depth into the story, and don’t open yourself up to spoilers. You do need to like sci-fi and you shouldn’t expect an Independence Day level of action. It is more like a Hitchcock thriller in a sci-fi world and causes some of the strongest emotions that I have felt from a movie. To truly enjoy all aspects of this movie, all you need to know is that it features Adams and Renner talking to aliens and that it is one of the best movies of 2016. That’s it. As you watch this feat of storytelling and filmmaking for the first time, with little knowledge about the film, it will be astounding.
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