Venice was given a gawping sci-fi of special effect wonders in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, which centres on perpetual Oscar nominee Amy Adams.
She plays genius linguist Louise Banks who, when alien craft (they look like gigantic versions of Norman Foster’s Gherkin building) land in 12 places around the globe, is ordered by the US military – led by gruff Colonel Forest Whittaker – to talk to the extra -terrestrials.
While all around her and around the world (particularly the Chinese, Russians and those darned shifty Sudanese) urge their governments to attack the visitors as the “Alien Crisis” extends for weeks, she gets busy establishing a semiotic code by which to communicate with them and thus hopefully save the planet.
Soon enough, she and the aliens (with the help of Jeremy Renner, as a scientist called Ian, who doesn’t really do much) are exchanging notes and reaching an understanding. It’s good to talk, as one phone company used to have it.
Adams is watchable and likeable as ever, but that’s the problem for me – the film unbalances and deviates from the intellectual examination of language to focus on Adams’ own personal tragedy – i.e. a lost daughter and a failed marriage – with a spot of mind-bending time-warping (are they flash backs or flash forwards?) chucked in just to really annoy viewers like me who never want to see this pompous horse shit again but now probably have to in order to work out if any of it makes sense.
Mind you, I was right about Interstellar being nonsense on a first viewing and Arrival has much of the same misleading aura of intelligence and similarly thumping music.
It’s all the more irritating, this sort of “up the garden path” cinema, because it feigns to do something original and clever, but can’t resist going for the heartstrings and human emotional angle – can’t we concentrate on the woman’s smarts for once instead of showing her pain over love and being a Mum? Or couldn’t we follow the aliens for once? They seem, to me at least, to have far more interesting things to say.