Thursday, 15 December 2016

arrival (d. denis villeneuve, w. eric heisserer)

As one of the world’s most ancient cities collapses in on itself in an orgy of cruelty, as human society appears to teeter on the brink, the fantasy of a visit from a wiser, more ‘humane’ civilisation than ours, coming from beyond the stars, is a tempting one. Arrival caters to this fantasy, lending the film a timeliness which goes hand in hand with the hokum. The denouement presents a world which pulls back from the brink of nuclear war and is restored to the harmony of pan-national unity. Egregious wish fulfilment, which looks particularly dangerous coming out of Hollywood in times like these. The film’s efficacy and flair only serves to heighten the contradiction between its message and the actuality of the world within which it is currently being watched. Villeneuve is becoming a master-craftsman, incorporating camera and soundtrack with digital effects to create something which almost allows you to ignore the film’s facile message. The editing, skipping between the character played by Amy Adams’s past and her present, is deftly handled. The set piece scenes, with extra terrestrials which look like something out of Day of the Triffids crossed with ET, are languidly paced and beautifully lit. The film manages to ride the technical challenges which might have revealed the ridiculousness of the premise. It’s all neatly done. Nevertheless, the eternal recurrence thematic feels like soft-soap Nietzsche (all gain no pain) and the notion that a child’s death is to be celebrated might have its place, but tucked into this wish-fulfilment factory piece, at a moment in time when children are being cold-bloodedly murdered, it feels uncomfortable. 

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