The most notable cinematic aliens to visit Monatana (since the Star Trekkers brought the Borg) have landed there and in eleven other global locations. Linguist, Dr. Louise Banks, (Amy Adams) and Theoretical Physicist, Ian Donnelly, (Jeremy Renner) are sent to work out what they want. All global locations are on high alert as they try to work together in the race for a breakthrough. The U.S. Military is represented by a benign Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) while intelligence is served by an obtuse Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg).
Director Denis Villeneuve delivers the action at a slow and steady rate; his sense of apprehension-building makes the film seem to have more pace than it actually does. The majority of scenes are interiors; mixed with the apprehension, this gives the film an appropriately claustrophobic and tense quality. The Sci-fi elements are set into a more grounded world to which we can relate. It follows more in the vein of Interstellar, Moon or Contact rather than the spectacles and high ideals of Star Wars and Star Trek. It is refreshingly subdued and contained for the sci fi genre.
All performances are appropriately understated; Amy Adams gives a subtle, thoughtful and retro-reflective performance as a bereaved mother and we are given a series of somewhat disconnected yet touching memories of her relationship with her daughter as she battles to understand the Alien dialect. Jeremy Renner does his Jeremy Renner thing, with glasses because he is a mathematician, but does not feel out of place while doing it. Forest Whitaker brings an almost too benign and understanding quality to his Army Colonel and following with the film’s muted tone Stuhlbarg’s spiteful investigator is wonderfully snide rather than brash and loud.
There is an already contentious feature spliced into the plot which is no more bizarre than Interstellar and already some people are finding silly. While it could have dug deeper into an explanation of a few of these plot devices I still found it to be gentle, cozy and delivered endearingly despite its simplicity. It would sit comfortably beside “A.I.” in a sci-fi collection.
I came away with a warm content monies-worth feeling. Overall it worked for me.
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