First Hit: A very inventive and powerful film effectively illuminating the complexities of non-liner time.
This was my kind of film; it had suspense, was beautifully presented, the sound, including the music, was dynamic, and was it intellectually challenging. However, none of this would work without a clear commitment from the actors and the production team. They are to be commended.
The basic story is that 12 alien ships arrive on earth and hover in different countries. Each country having a ship assigns a team of people to try to figure out why they are here on Earth. Heading the military led team for the United States is Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). His focus is to communicate to the US Government and the rest of the world what his team has learned. Looking for experts he approaches Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who is a professor of communication and linguistics at an unnamed College/University. She has certain criteria of how she will work on this project and when Weber rebuffs her, he searches out others. However, a short time later he has a change of heart, she is the best.
This scene, for me, sets the tone of the whole film. How Weber's team picks her up, the noise of being inside the helicopter, the tense excitement of the assignment ahead of them, had me ready for an adventure. The filming and sound were perfectly industrial and presents a sense of realism, the kind that tells you that you are in good hands under the direction of Director Denis Villeneuve. In each scene he beckons the audience, to sit back, open your mind, and enjoy the ride because this will be like no other alien invasion film you’ve ever experienced.
On the helicopter ride she meets her working partner Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) who is a physicist. Although their ways of finding out and interpreting the information is they gain from the aliens is very different, they both agree it starts with communication.
There are a number of amazing scenes when they enter the alien ship; how gravity is upended, how they view the aliens through a glass like structure, and the fascinating scenes of Ian and Louise learning the alien’s language. All through this film we are treated to Louise’s memories of her daughter and little do we know how all of this comes together until the very end when she and Ian “get” the picture the aliens want to share with all of us.
Although I cannot say more about the plot, I will say the screenplay, cinematography, the concept, the acting and directing are top notch. But what really got me, was the ability of everyone who worked on this film to commit to the vision and present an amazing way to help people think more about understanding non-liner time.
Whitaker is the kind of man and actor that elevates every film he is in. For me he is one of the very best living actors and in this movie he's no different. He knows just how much of his intensity and kindness to put into every role and every scene. Adams is sublime. She plays a very complex character and there are few that could have pulled it off as well as Adams. I’m not sure how she felt about the role, but for me it was a role of a lifetime. Renner did a fantastic job in support of Banks. He led when he needed to and buttressed Banks inroads to the science of communicating with aliens. Eric Heisserer wrote an extraordinary screenplay. His ability to create a cohesive, engaging, entertaining and intellectual story while tackling the concept of time was amazing. Villeneuve had a clear vision of what he wanted and how this film was going to get there. From the odd look of the alien spaceships (they looked like large contact lenses), to the music striking the perfect background sound and mood, to how he got so much from each actor, his clear deft hand took us on an amazing journey for which I applaud him.
Overall: This was an extraordinary film and based on all the movies I’ve seen this year, this one is one of the top three.