The 2016 Venice Film Festival has finished its second day, and undoubtedly the biggest draw from today's presentations was the Amy Adams-led feature Arrival. Directed by Sicario's Denis Villeneuve, the movie follows Earth as it deals with mysterious spacecrafts that have suddenly parked themselves above various spots across the globe, and a team of researchers tries to figure out what the aliens are doing here as the public continually demands answers. It definitely looks more cerebral than most alien invasion features, and two months before the masses get to see it, critics have watched it themselves,and the overall reception seems to be positive for the most part.
Starting off, The Hollywood Reporter was pleased with how thoughtful Arrival was, saying it was a refreshing change of pace from how destructive these types of movies usually are.
Arrival boldly snubs the standard alien-invasion vernacular of contemporary movies to explore a mood and language of its own. It may be a touch too subdued for the mainstream, but the movie has brains and originality, qualities these days too seldom valued in the genre.
Variety also approved of many parts in Arrival, although they felt it didn't reach its full potential, especially concerning the aliens in the second half of the movie (be warned there are major spoilers in their full review).
So you have to say this for "Arrival," a solemnly fantastic tale of a highly enigmatic alien visit that premiered today at the 73rd International Venice Film Festival: The film has been made, by the intensely gifted director Denis Villeneuve, with an awareness that we've already been through this more than enough times, and that the definition of an alien movie --- or, at least, one that's trying to be a serious piece of sci-fi, and not just a popcorn lark like "Independence Day" --- is that it's going to hypnotize us with something that appears extraordinary because it's altogether unprecedented...At its best, "Arrival" has an eerie grandeur, but if the film starts off as neo-Spielberg, it winds up as neo-Christopher Nolan meets neo-Terrence Malick --- it turns into an ersatz mind-bender. You feel you've had a close encounter with what might have been an amazing movie, but not actual contact.
Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian gave Arrival four out of five stars, commending the movie on using political intrigue and betrayal among the humans to keep the story gripping.
Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi contact drama is dreamy, freaky, audacious. It skirts the edge of absurdity, as anything like this must, but manages to keep clear, and it includes a big flourish in the manner of early films by M Night Shyamalan, which adroitly finesses the narrative issue of what exactly to do with a movie about aliens showing up on Earth.
Finally, Time complimented Amy Adams' performance as Louise and how Villeneuve was able to take a lot of moving parts to form them into a excellent picture, even if it didn't quite reach the heights it could have.
Arrival gives us a lot to take in, and the picture is big, somber and grand, if in the end somewhat sterile: Villeneuve (director of Prisoners and Sicario), working from Ted Chiang's short story "Story of Your Life," may be stretching the profundities a bit too far. But Adams gives a nicely polished, muted performance: She keeps the story grounded when the ideas Villeneuve is striving for threaten to get too lofty. And the picture is intelligently and effectively crafted, one of those enterprises where the cinematography, sound design and score, as well as the special effects, melt into a seamless, organic whole.
If you haven't already, check out the Arrival trailer to get a sense of what the movie's about and how it's different from the usual tales of extra terrestrials coming to Earth.