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Denis Villeneuve
Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Writing Credits:
Eric Heisserer

When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
English Audio Description
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/14/2017

• “Xenolinguistics” Featurette
• “Acoustic Signatures” Featurette
• “Eternal Recurrence” Featurette
• “Nonlinear Thinking” Featurette
• “Principles of Time, Memory and Language” Featurette


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Arrival [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 31, 2017)

Beyond technical categories, science-fiction movies usually don’t get much Oscar love, but 2016’s Arrival provides an exception to that rule. The film managed to nab nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, all areas rarely touched by the genre.

As I write this about a month pre-Oscars, I’d bet serious money Arrival won’t win any of those awards. However, given the way the Academy usually views science-fiction, the nominations alone count as a victory.

When 12 alien vessels suddenly appear at various points around the planet, linguistics expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams) hears from US military authorities. They need someone to attempt to communicate with the visitors, so Louise becomes part of a team.

This leads Louise on a journey to work with the aliens and determine the purpose behind their visit. Louise deals with opposition at various levels and along with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), she fights against time to solve language-based problems and maintain peace between humans and aliens.

In discussions of Arrival that I’ve read, I’ve seen comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I must admit I don’t discern a whole lot of similarities. Sure, Arrival and 2001 relate to mysteries prompted by aliens, but otherwise, I think the two lack many common features.

On the other hand, I do find a lot to connect Arrival to two other films: Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Interstellar - especially Interstellar. While I won’t call Arrival a copycat, I think it boasts many connections to the 2014 Christopher Nolan flick.

Most of those relate to chronology, as both films play fast and loose with “flashbacks” and time-related factors. A detailed discussion of this topic would involve big Arrival-related spoilers, so I’ll avoid those, but suffice it say that we get some unusual chronological elements that may throw the viewer off to a degree.

At least during an initial viewing. With Arrival, the “flashback” sequences tie up by the end, and those make a second screening a substantially different experience. With a clearer understanding of what the “flashbacks” mean, the film works in a different way,

But Arrival remains satisfying on first or second viewings, mainly because it focuses on the human side of things. That was a strength of Interstellar - and Close Encounters, for that matter – and the focus on a specific character’s journey adds depth to the tale.

That said, I admit I prefer the scope and focus of Close Encounters and Interstellar. Close Encounters boasts an “everyman” vibe absent here due to Louise’s linguistic expertise; she may act as the audience’s entry, but we don’t quite identify with her like we do Roy Neary.

I also favor the broader range of Interstellar. Nolan managed to create film with a serious “epic” feel that still came across as intimate and personal. Arrival does neither side as well – it lacks the same ambition as Interstellar and doesn’t involve us in its personalities to the same degree.

Not being as good as two films I classify as classics doesn’t act as a slam on Arrival, though. Very few films match up with the highs exhibited by Interstellar and Close Encounters, so I can’t knock Arrival because it earns a “B” grade instead of an “A”.

Still, I admit I wish Arrival didn’t exhibit its influences so heavily. While it does enough to turn into its own film, it still can come across as an amalgam of source components. There’s a feel that we’ve seen a lot of this story already.

Whatever derivative components arise, though, I do think Arrival works well on its own, and the fairly subdued nature of the effort helps. Director Denis Villeneuve manages to bring us into the movie’s world in a gentle, gradual manner that avoids theatrics or flashy techniques. We find ourselves invested in the film’s fairly low-key presentation, and I appreciate its refusal to embrace overly dramatic hysterics.

Of course, a good cast helps. Adams rarely – if ever – offers less than professional work, and she invests Louise with heart and intelligence. Renner backs her up well, and Forest Whitaker fills out the potentially cliché role of the military leader with aplomb.

All of this leads us toward a largely involving science-fiction effort. Despite its derivative moments, Arrival creates enough of its own personality to bring us a compelling take on the “alien invasion” theme with a nice dose of humanity and intelligence as well.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Arrival appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image worked well.

Sharpness appeared strong. Only a little softness materialized, as the majority of the movie displayed appropriate delineation. I saw no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and print flaws remained absent.

In terms of palette, Arrival tended toward standard teal and orange – especially teal, as blue/green dominated the image. These hues showed good representation within stylistic constraints.

Blacks were dark and tight, and shadows seemed fine. Arrival intentionally opted for a semi-murky viewpoint, and I heard complaints about the darkness of the image from people who saw it theatrically. While the movie did go for a dense look, I still thought elements remained appropriately visible. The movie offered a good transfer.

As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio, it came with occasional instances of dynamic information, mainly during a few action-oriented sequences. Those popped to life in an exciting fashion.

Most of the flick went with gentler audio, and those segments succeeded as well. These contributed a good sense of atmosphere and formed an involving sensibility throughout the film, especially related to the aliens. Despite its often-subdued nature, the soundscape helped bolster the story.

Audio quality seemed solid. Music was bold and full, and effects followed suit, as those elements appeared accurate and dynamic. In particular, the heptapods boasted awesome low-end response. Speech remained natural and without edginess or concerns. I felt the soundtrack suited the tale and helped it succeed.

Five featurettes appear here. Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival runs 30 minutes, three seconds and provides comments from author Ted Chiang, screenwriter/executive producer Eric Heisserer, producers Shawn Levy, David Linde, Aaron Ryder and Dan Levine, director Denis Villeneuve, linguistic consultant Jessica Coon, scientific/engineering consultant Stephen Wolfram, production designer Patrice Vermette, visual effects supervisor Louis Morin, costume designer Renee April, director of photography Bradford Young, and actors Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.

The program covers the source novel and its adaptation, Villeneuve’s approach to the material, story/character areas, cast and performances, linguistic domains and creature/spaceship/costume design, sets and cinematography. “Xenolinguistics” goes over a lot of film-related territory and does so fairly well. It could boast more depth – I’d like a better comparison between novel and movie, for instance – but it still gives us a nice overview.

Next comes Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design. In this 13-minute, 59-second piece, we hear from Villeneuve, supervising sound designer Sylvain Bellemare, and heptapod vocals sound designers Michelle Child and Dave Whitehead. As expected, this piece examines sound-related domains. “Acoustic” covers relevant areas well.

For the 11-minute, 24-second Eternal Recurrence: The Score, we get notes from Villeneuve and composer Johann Johannson. The show discusses the movie’s music, and it does so with a reasonably detailed program.

Nonlinear Thinking: The Editing Process fills 11 minutes, 20 seconds with info from Villeneuve, editor Joe Walker and supervising VFX editor Javier Marcheselli. Here we learn about editing and effects. “Thinking” turns into another useful overview.

Finally, Principles of Time, Memory and Language takes up 15 minutes, 24 seconds and features Chiang, Coon and Wolfram. “Time” examines scientific elements of the film and its concepts. It turns into a thought-provoking take.

At times, Arrival can seem a bit too derivative of other science-fiction movies, as genre fans will see prior tales reflected in it. Nonetheless, the film stands well on its own and gives us a smart, involving view of alien visitation. The Blu-ray provides very good picture and audio as well as a fairly informative set of supplements. Arrival may not be a sci-fi classic, but it’s still a strong film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1739 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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