“Arrival” is a cerebral, heartfelt and just plain great sci-fi film that should not be missed. I did, since I wasn’t able to catch in theaters. I wish I had. Anyway, the film is, well, arriving to video on Valentine’s Day so I was able to finally check it out, along with some really insightful features to boot.
The film is based on a short story called “Story of Your Life” by author Ted Chiang, which revolves around Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist, who is hired by the Army to help decode mysterious alien communication after various interstellar vessels land across the world. Moving on to the movie, the basic premise remains the same. In fact, the story comes to life and is given more meat by its filmmaker and crew.
Denis Villeneuve directs this feature, a fairly new director whose past work, including 2015’s “Sicario” showcases a very good eye for visuals. “Arrival” is no different in this respect, constantly bringing the viewer into fantastic shots and setting great tones throughout the film.
In this film aliens referred to as heptapods come to earth in 12 distinct places on earth. Their ships and the creatures themselves are unlike anything we’ve seen in sci-fi, when one thinks of either scary slick, and dangerous ones from “Alien”, or the cute one like “ET: Extra Terrestrial”, these aliens are an interesting concept. The film itself feels pretty grounded in reality, which is why it is not a wham, bam, sci-fi action film like Star Trek, but a more cerebral approach to the genre, where humanity is the main player in everything, and the sci-fi portion is what causes the story to move along. At its core “Arrival” is a story about the human mind, and the power of communication and memory. It isn’t ray guns and fingers touching to connect as much as it’s a deeper and very well thought out science fiction drama.
On to the features, the Blu-ray features standard things most blockbuster Blu-ray discs contain, such as the English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, which sounds superb, even from my single sound bar at home. The visitors from afar in the film do speak a language, which is why the army initially goes to Amy Adams Louise character, and it sounds really interesting to say the least, especially through crisp and clear audio tracks. The soundtrack may give you quite the feelings as well, with some original score as well as French, Spanish, and English audio description. The Blu-ray comes with the HD digital copy as well. Now the film might leave you wanting more after it’s over, not in a bad way, just a curiosity to understand how and what just happened, and maybe a “why?”.
So the special features on the Blu-ray include: Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival; Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design; Eternal Recurrence: The Score; Nonlinear Thinking: The Editorial Process; and Principles of Time, Memory & Language. Out of these segments, my favorite would have to be the Principles of Time featurette, in which the creators, including the director, actors, and short story writer Ted Chiang look into the who’s and what’s of what made “Arrival” a movie that had to be made, and how it’s style ended up the way it did. Great set of features for new arrivals like myself, but definitely worth a look for those that have seen the film and want to think provocative new things or test your theories on the not so little green men that come from the sky in the film.
“Arrival” is out on Blu-ray/DVD and 4K versions on February 14th.