The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

“Arrival” proves that less is more


It’s a shame that trailers so often ruin the movie that they’re trying to promote. Now more than ever, studios release far too much footage in the marketing materials prior to the release of a film, leaving very little to the imagination by the time the actual theater experience arrives. 

Rarely does a film like “Arrival” come along which, aside from the talent involved all around and the fact that it’s a science-fiction story about mysterious alien ships landing on earth, so very little has been revealed about prior to its release. All you really need to know is this: “Arrival” is the single most astonishing film you’ll see this year. 

Amy Adams plays a linguist summoned by the U.S. government to communicate with the alien life forms in hopes of answering the question that so many of these movies ask: “Do they come in peace?” Much of the movie is spent following Adams’ character as she attempts to decipher a language that’s so very different from any language spoken here on this planet. 

Just as her understanding of these beings grows throughout the course of the film, the audience gradually learns more about her character, leading to a game-changing revelation toward the end that absolutely nobody will see coming.

Having tackled more intimate dramas like “Prisoners” and “Sicario” in the past, director Denis Villeneuve works his magic behind the camera once more to deliver a spectacle that defies any preconceived notions of what an “alien invasion” type movie should be. 

While the cinematography on display is stunning and the visual effects are flawlessly done, one thing that should be made absolutely clear to anyone planning to go see “Arrival” is that it isn’t an action-packed extravaganza with elaborate space battles and peppy one-liners. This is a multi-layered story that uses this concept of extra-terrestrials to shine a mirror back on humanity and our tendency to shun the unknown. 

Part of the film’s brilliance comes from its deliberate pacing, taking its time to let every detail sink in to deliver the final dramatic twist. There’s a sense of self-awareness to the film as it constantly fiddles with your expectations regarding what this sort of film should entail. 

Moments of genuine suspense are scattered all throughout, but some of the film’s more quiet and subdued moments will be the ones that stay planted in the mind’s eye after the film ends. Quite a few of the “talking scenes” that don’t initially seem important turn out to be the foundations of understanding crucial information later on. 

“Arrival” is a film that’s incredibly difficult to fully praise without getting into spoilers, and to spoil a film like this would be a huge disservice to everyone who worked so hard to bring it to the big screen and preserve its mysteries. Aesthetically, the film is always beautiful to look at and each still frame is a work of art in and of itself, but the visuals are always in service of the story, not the other way around. 

This story is one that deserves to be told and one that deserves to be seen because without a doubt, “Arrival” will be talked about for years to come. 

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