Arrival is an intelligent, engrossing science fiction film. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, The Enemy, Nightcrawler) Arrival presents a plausible look at humanity’s first meeting with alien life forms.

When 12 alien space ships appear over 12 locations throughout the world, expert linguist  Dr. Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) is tasked with figuring out how to communicate with the aliens aboard the ship hovering over Montana in the United States. Assisting her is a theoretical physicist (played by Jeremy Renner). Rounding out the cast is Forrest Whitaker as US Army Colonel Weber who is leading the American effort to find out what the aliens’ intentions are.

Arrival is a slow-moving film. Tension in the plot revolves around whether or not Dr. Banks can interpret what the aliens want. But more importantly, even if humanity is successful in communicating with the aliens, humanity still fails at communicating with each other. At first the 12 different groups cooperate with each other, sharing information about the aliens. But as time goes on, relations break down and it appears as if a human attack on one of the alien ships is imminent. Arrival captures the paranoia and distrust very well: humanity turns on itself as the inferred threat of the aliens looms ever present.

As always, humans are quick to assume ill intent on the part of the aliens despite the fact that the aliens have traveled light years to get to earth in spaceships that defy human understanding. If the aliens truly meant harm to humanity, it is unlikely the anything could be done to stop such a sufficiently advanced life-form.

Worth a look if you like intelligent, thoughtful science fiction films.

Skip it if spacecraft dogfights and laser-gun battles are more your thing.

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MV5BMjM5NjkzMjE5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMzNTk4MjE@._V1_SX214_AL_Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a small-time, two-bit thief eking out an existence in modern-day Los Angeles: he steals copper wire and chain link fencing and sells it to construction contractors, who will not hire him for construction jobs because he is dishonest.

One night, he comes upon a burning car from which paramedics are trying to free a trapped woman and discovers “nightcrawlers,” people who film violent/gory content and sell it to the local news networks. Lou figures this is something that he could be good at, so he steals a bike and trades it for a movie camera and police scanner at a  pawn shop.

He prowls at night finding the scene of a carjacking gone wrong. Despite being to told to leave by police, he is able to get some graphic footage. He sells the footage to  a local news station, which happens to be the lowest rated in the area. Rene Russo plays the news director, who encourages Lou to bring her more footage.

Lou hires an assistant, played by Riz Ahmed, to help him gather footage to sell. Soon after, Lou and his assistant respond to a crime-in-progress and get to the crime scene before the police. Lou re-stages the crime scene to get “better” footage. He hatches a plan to find the killers and get their arrest on camera to sell to the news stations, but with lethal consequences.

The movie is a timely exploration of the consequences of getting ever-increasing graphic/bloody footage to an increasing desensitized audience. When this footage is gathered by an ethically/morally challenged individual, these consequences are both horrifying and devastating.

Worth a look if want to see a fascinating (if disturbing) glimpse into an amoral creep who will do anything to get bloody/gory news footage to sell.

Skip it if you are tired of ever-increasing grapic news footage.

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– Steve


Cerebral Movies: Enemy

MV5BMTQ2NzA5NjE4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQ4NzMxMTE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Enemy, based on the novel The Double by José Saramago, stars Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual role as Adam and Anthony. It is a cerebral movie in that not much is explained. The director, Denis Villeneuve leaves little clues as the film unfolds, but ultimately any meaning is left to the viewer to decipher. It is a compact, dense film and every object, every scene has meaning. However, the meaning is oblique and not fully explained. Careful watching of this film will reveal a story which is much more than it appears to be on the surface.

Adam Bell, a history professor in Toronto, doesn’t seem to be happy. He always has a disheveled appearance, his apartment is unkempt, and his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent) seems to be unhappy with him. He is in a rut in his classes; we see him delivering the same lecture several times to different students.

He sees his identical twin in a bit part in a movie which was recommended by a co-worker. He tracks down the actor whose stage name is Daniel Saint Claire and whose legal name is Anthony Claire. Adam meets Anthony and things go bad. Anthony seemingly is better off than Adam. Anthony has a beautiful, pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon), dresses well, has a nice apartment, and seems to have a lot of money, despite being a bit-part actor. But he doesn’t appear to be any happier than Adam.

Isabella Rossellini has a small role as Anthony’s mother. Again, careful viewing and listening to the scenes she is in will be rewarding in understanding what the movie is about.

The ending of this movie is confusing if you haven’t been paying attention, but packs a startling punch if you have.

Worth a look if you like cerebral movies which make you think.

Skip it if you like your movies explained and wrapped up in neat packages.

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