After making himself a name in Hollywood with several overtly disturbing films that took a pessimistic view on the current state of humanity, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has taken a sharp change of course. His previous American films, “Prisoners,” “Enemy,” and “Sicario,” were intense viewing experiences filled with graphic violence and nihilism that were not for the faint of heart. His latest film, “Arrival,” on the other hand, is a movie of unflinching hope and optimism giving it an unparalleled timeliness.
“Arrival” tells the story of a linguist professor who is sent to Montana to learn the language of an alien being that has landed there. The ship that lands in Montana is accompanied by eleven others around the world forcing several major world powers to work together in order to preserve peace. However, it quickly becomes clear that the biggest threat to humanity isn’t the aliens but humanity itself.
There is no way Villeneuve could have known that his movie would be released right as Donald Trump became the President-elect, but he clearly wanted to make a movie that would encourage an increasing hopeless society. Villeneuve has maintained his technical mastery of filmmaking, but thematically, “Arrival” couldn’t be farther from what they were when he entered Hollywood with “Prisoners.” The 2013 film argued that humans have a distinct lack of free will that will lead us to our impending doom, whereas “Arrival” argues that free will has the power to save humanity.
The arrival of the film’s aliens can be seen as an allegory for many specific issues, but it is more importantly a reminder that the people of the world can’t allow their insecurities and fears get in the way of the collective good. In a politically divided world those who don’t exercise their free will to better society fail it. By imparting such a critical message on its audience “Arrival” is nothing short of essential viewing for people of all ages.
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