One of these years, Amy Adams, you will (at last!) take home an Oscar.
Adams, who during her career has stolen scenes from the typically commanding likes of Leonardo DiCaprio (in Catch Me If You Can), Meryl Streep (Doubt) and Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), plus delivered a number of terrific leading turns (Enchanted, in particular), is in exquisite form in the latest film from director Denis Villenueve, Arrival. It might well be her finest work to date, though I've yet to see her comparably acclaimed work in the upcoming Nocturnal Animals.
In the film, Adams portrays Louise Banks, a brilliant linguistics professor recruited by the U.S. military to lead its team of investigators in what has become a global race to successfully communicate with one of a dozen extraterrestrial spacecrafts that have touched down across Earth.
Banks, supported, among others, by a theoretical physicist (Jeremy Renner) and U.S. Army colonel (Forest Whitaker), comes face-to-face with the aliens - dubbed Heptapods - that have landed in the U.S. and works tirelessly to decode the creatures' complicated language. What, Banks hopes to discover, is exactly their purpose for being here? All the while, much of the rest of the world sinks into turmoil and war over these visits and Banks is incessantly haunted - and yet, quite often, helped - by memories of her deceased daughter.
The opening half hour of Arrival comes close to capturing that same awe-inspiring feeling we all had during the finale of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when Richard Dreyfuss' character, following an arduous journey, finally witnessed, in breathtaking fashion, the arrival of extraterrestrial beings. This picture is also awfully convincing in portraying just what the chaotic global reaction would probably be to such an event.
With that said, after the movie magic that is the first encounter with the extraterrestrials, Arrival has few additional goods to deliver. It stagnates. The picture, as a whole, does not prove as compelling or exciting as Villeneuve's exhilarating Sicario from last year and I found the constant back-and-forth with moments involving her late daughter both overly manipulative and a case of overediting.
Adams is spectacular throughout and ultimately keeps Arrival plenty afloat but, beyond her work, the first quarter of the movie and Bradford Young's stunning cinematography, I don't think the picture works nearly as incredibly as it should have. I suppose the most apt comparison to the film would be Robert Zemeckis' Contact, which also sported one hell of a leading performance (from Jodie Foster) and some intriguing ideas but otherwise looked and felt curiously sterile.