Blu-ray Review: Arrival

More often than not when it comes to films that center around an alien invasion, a solid percentage of screen time is dedicated to elaborate action sequences, major explosions, witty one-liners and an inspirational speech used to rally the troops heading into the movie’s climax that even makes audiences want to get up and take arms against these violent invaders (I’m looking at you, Bill Pullman!)

That’s why the more dramatic take on the whole “aliens setting up shop in our atmosphere for unknown reasons” that Arrival takes on the subject is such a breath of fresh air. Now don’t get me wrong, I love witty one-liners and explosions, but that can’t always be the inevitable outcome when it comes to extraterrestrial visitors arriving on or doorstep, can it?

Arrival begins the way most of these stories tend to start, with the arrival of twelve unidentified spacecrafts entering the atmosphere and parking at multiple locations around the globe. From there, one of the world’s best linguists, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military (specifically by Colonel Weber, played by Forest Whitaker) to work alongside physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to try and open up a line of communication with earth’s new visitors.

Of course, it’s not so easy to just work up a conversation with an alien species that doesn’t speak our language — especially when you’re only able to communicate with these beings (or as the film dubs them, heptapods) once every 18 hours. As Banks tries to decipher the alien language and figure out why it is they’ve come to earth, governments and military personnel around the world are planning for the worst, and even turning on one another.

Now I personally love everything about Arrival. It can be viewed as somewhat simple in terms of its visual scope, as a great deal of the film takes place in the same few locations. But that said, it’s beautiful in its simplicity. There’s also something so serene about how it’s shot, edited, scored and acted that it’s hard to put into words. At the same time, it’s incredibly engrossing, and filled with tense moments that kept me on edge. It’s such a wonderful yin and yang scenario that just works perfectly on all fronts.

While Arrival was a fairly big hit domestically, it’ll no doubt spark more interest on Blu-ray and DVD now that it’s been nominated for Best Picture. That nomination is much deserved, as are the other seven nominations that include director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer. I do feel that Amy Adams was snubbed for her part here, as she carries every aspect of the film on her shoulders from start to finish. The supporting cast is also top notch across the board, which really helps when telling a story like this. Their expert work here just allows the viewer to fully immerse themselves into this masterful tale of science fiction, and believe that this is a possible way that this could actually go down if a UFO did arrive unannounced. You know, since we can’t really count on Will Smith to go punch an alien in the face and save the day. I mean, maybe he would…I’m just saying it’s unlikely.

Paramount constantly delivers on its Blu-ray transfers of films, and Arrival is no different. The film looks absolutely gorgeous here, and the sound follows suit. The sound mix is incredible, as is the score, and together they bring theatrical emersion right home to your living room.

Special Features:

Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival This is a hefty 30 minute making of feature that looks at the source material (the film is based off the story “Story of Your Life,” by Ted Chiang), casting and bringing the characters to life, creating the alien language, their ship and overall design. It’s a solid amount of material for those looking to find out more about the making of process — especially with no commentary track available.

Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design – This feature is 14 minutes in length and is pretty self explanatory in its title as to what its focus is. The film is nominated for an Oscar for Sound, so it’s great to get a pretty good look at what went into bringing the film to life on this front.

Eternal Recurrence: The Score – At just under 12 minutes in length, we get a feature that focuses on the score of the film, and how it works with the storytelling process.

Nonlinear Thinking: The Editing Process – This feature is just over 11 minutes in length, and again focuses on an Oscar nominated aspect of the film: editing. For anyone interested in this side of film making, this is obviously a must watch piece.

Principles of Time, Memory, & Language – This feature is just under 16 minutes in length, and like all extras, is best to be watched after the film is viewed. It’s incredibly interesting, and any fan of the film will definitely want to sit down and watch this one.

Paramount Pictures Presents Arrival. Directed by: Denis Villeneuve. Written by: Eric Heisserer. Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker. Running time: 116 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Feb. 14, 2017.

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