There is a fine yet tangible line between great films and true, test-of-time masterpieces, and "Arrival" crosses this threshold very early on and somehow gets even better from there. Transcending genre classification even as it stands as one of the finest cinematic achievements in modern science-fiction storytelling, director Denis Villeneuve's (2015's "Sicario") latest stunner threatens, at times, to become too overwhelming. Striking but unforced, rousingly operatic in its achingly resplendent grandeur and intimacy, this is a picture to savor, to be humbled by, to fall in love with, and to be in absolute awe over. It is a miraculous study in the precious fluidity of time and memory, of love and hindsight, and not trading any of it for the world. It's also an extraordinary tale not merely about aliens, but about the distinctly alien, and what ultimately bonds rather than separates the living creatures of the universe. In adapting Ted Chiang's short story "Story of Your Life," scribe Eric Heisserer (2016's "Lights Out") balances upon a proverbial tightrope and never steps wrong. "Arrival" is one for the ages.
Linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is wandering through her days in a dutiful haze, the joy of living having seemingly been drained from her present following the untimely loss of 12-year-old daughter Hannah. Serving to shake her out of her stasis is a frightening worldwide event: the synchronous appearance of twelve unidentified flying objects across the globe. As military leaders and government officials struggle over how to handle this potential crisis, U.S.-based Colonel G.T. Weber (Forest Whitaker) seeks Louise's expertise in languages in an attempt to communicate with the alien beings. Time is naturally of the essence, and before Louise has a chance to fully grasp the enormity of what she is agreeing to, she and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) find themselves en route to the location of one such craft hovering over a field in rural Montana.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review