Tag Archive: amy adams


Arrival – Review

At first glance, Arrival may seem like your typical alien invasion movie. It certainly has the setup for one, with twelve alien ships landing down on 12, seemingly random cities, and each country’s government sending out their military and a small team of scientists to figure out what the aliens are here to do. However, Arrival sidesteps a majority of alien invasion tropes, instead, offering an emotionally driven and thought provoking story with an final revelation that will fill you with wonder.

As previously noted, the setup is fairly simple. There are twelve alien spaceships that have all landed on Earth at the same time, over twelve random cities. Thankfully, this did not result in a full out attack by either side. Instead, the US government, as well as the rest of the world, decided to try to communicate with the alien species, referred to as Heptapods.

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Amy Adams as Louise Banks, standing in front of one of twelve alien spacecrafts

The only problem is their language is completely different from that of any human, so the government brings in Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who has previous experience working with the government to translate classified intelligence. From the beginning of the movie, Louise is haunted by the loss of her daughter, Hannah, to a rare disease. While probably not intentional, it is reminiscent of Up, so yes, it is an emotional beginning. We later see flashbacks to Hannah, and how Louise’s memories of her daughter help her remember little things that clear her mind and aid in her translation and communication with the Heptapods.

Louise is teamed up with Ian (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, who initially seems to be there to offer a scientific perspective, but for most of the film is there as a sidekick to Louise. I particularly enjoyed the role of Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), because he played an intelligent character. Whereas lesser movies would make the military presence exist to essentially fight the aliens, he is fully on Louise’s side, taking the time to listen to her and understand her point of view. I fully enjoyed how these characters were all mature and intelligent, making them all likable while still being well defined.

Don’t expect anything to move at too fast of a pace here. The movie is a slow burner, spending a lot of time between Louse and the Heptapods, as she deciphers their language. This leads to an actual theory in the field of linguistics known as Sapir-Whorf , which in the context of the movie, implies Louise may be perceiving the world around her differently by being so consumed by the Heptapods’ language. This is an intriguing concept and is effectively woven into the story of Arrival.

There are times when the movie decides to broaden its scope beyond Louise and Ian, but it doesn’t work as well as I would have liked. Television news broadcasts show turmoil in various cities, with riots and looting happening all over the world. A few countries get less and less happy with the alien presence, and some bad translations and lack of understanding how they perceive the world compared to humans leads to the third acts final conflict.

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One of the many words translated throughout the movie

Coincidentally, this is when the big revelation occurs, which I will not even hint at, but can confirm it was pleasantly unexpected. This is likely due to the fact that I have watched a lot of science fiction movies and was expecting something somewhat uninspired to occur. Thankfully, this is not the case, and I do not believe I have seen such a profound final act in a science fiction movie since I watched Contact (though, I hear Interstellar has quite the ending as well). I can’t deny the ending did have one rushed element that did not make a whole lot of sense, but it did work, it just felt a bit rushed.

Ignoring some issues, the ending brought together themes of unity and perception as well as the notion of free will. Surprisingly, nothing was left up to interpretation, and the conclusion was very fulfilling. I was left in chills, being both overcome with wonder, happiness, and sadness after seeing how every thread was neatly tied together. This is science fiction at its finest, presenting big concepts and following through in a well thought out and mature manner.

If you value science fiction that is more than explosions and action or if you appreciate a truly emotional drama, I cannot recommend a better movie this year than Arrival.

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Her Review

Every so often a movie comes around that is so simple yet profoundly affective it sticks with you for a long time.  That is what Her accomplished.

At its heart, Her is a story of being happy.  While this is shown throughout the movie between the main character Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), Theodore’s recently

Just Theodore and Samantha at the beach, no big deal

Just Theodore and Samantha at the beach, no big deal

purchased operating system, it is Amy (Amy Adams), Theodore’s friend since college, who drives the theme home as the movie progresses.  Nonetheless, the movie focuses on Theodore and Samantha.  Theodore is coming off a big breakup (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer) and it has been a while since he’s dated, and in fact he really can’t find the desire to date anyone or commit to anything long term.  Instead he spends his time mainly alone, which doesn’t do much in terms of keeping him happy (which has caused some concern for a few of his friends we do not see on screen but try to get him out of the house).  So on his way to work one day he decides to buy the first self-aware operating system.  And so she names herself Samantha and their relation begins.

Now, Samantha obviously has no body and that becomes the best part of the film.  Theodore never knows if he should be in a relationship with her.  Yes, they really enjoy each other and find it difficult to not think of the next time they’ll be together (which isn’t that difficult since the future is Microsoft’s dream gone by for Windows 8 and apparently every device is run by the same OS).  As their relation progresses it doesn’t seem that strange, but that’s because we know them a bit more at this point, what about everyone else in the world of the movie?  Well, we don’t get to know that, but Theodore thinks about it.  He’s happy with Samantha so why not keep it up?  There could be a list of questions at this point, but I’ll spare you, just know the list likely crossed Theodore’s mind a few times.  I found myself feeling sorry for him at times, wanting him to move on and just have fun again.  When he eventually finds a smile again it is fulfilling not only for him but for the audience.

Again, that’s what the movie is about: finding someone who makes you happy and not caring what anyone else thinks.  During the course of the movie there is a part when Amy tells Theodore something along the lines of how life is too short not to be the the people that make you happy.  I love this message.  Yes it is simple and we’ve heard it a thousand times, but it seems like the majority of times we hear it is in an average romantic comedy because someone cheated or they had a fight and they’re told by a friend or some random person how life is too short and so on.  In those movies it rarely feels genuine and instead is just a lame plot device to have an over-the-top ending in which the guy does something crazy to win back the girl.

Amy and Theodore at Amy's place

Amy and Theodore at Amy’s place

Her presents characters grounded in reality, facing real problems and resolutions.  Samantha not having a body explores human emotion in a new and interesting way, raising the question of what it means to be human and what it means to love and care.  Having Amy as a friend feels real.  Not every person you meet is going to be a relationship and their friendship is what seems to keep them going the further along them movie goes.  They make each other happy and isn’t that all that really matters?  Finding someone who gets you without judgement.  Someone to be there to help you and for you to help.  Relationships don’t need to be advertised all over the world or the internet or whatever, they just need to make the people involved happy, whether it be in love or friends.  Theodore discovers this throughout the course of the film, as he tries to let go of the past that can only bring him sorrow, and along the way look at himself and how he can make himself happier.

Note: I found this a surprisingly difficult film to review in fear of giving anything away, but just know, this is an amazing film and it should not be missed.