If you are looking for Star Wars levels of excitement stop right here. This is the wrong movie.
If you love Terence Malick step this way.
OK, so we have hopefully established that this is thinking man and women’s sci-fi. By that I mean it’s quite slow.
But it’s beautiful and crafted and emotionally engaging. The Aliens that arrive on earth in 12 seemingly unrelated locations do not appear to be warmongers, but are they? What is their motive? To find that out humankind will need to collaborate globally in finding a common language or means to communicate.
That’s gonna be tricky when three of the countries involved (Russia, China and Pakistan) are not commonly associated with collaborative political working (a bit too much Cold War/Axis of Evil rhetoric here for my liking) and indeed these are the three countries that prove most troublesome and potentially trigger-happy in the plot.
Throughout, I was wondering what would happen here if this was real and Donald Trump was in office. It doesn’t bear thinking about frankly.
Anyway, thankfully for humankind it’s Amy Adams as a polylinguistic professor called Fiona that’s in charge of negotiations with the Montana located spaceship full of Heptapods (7 legged floating Octopi). Beautifully and sympathetically rendered.
Her accession to the post is a direct result of her in depth understanding of the Sanskrit word for war and its meaning (A desire for more cattle) unlike her potential competitor.
(Blink and you’ll miss that.)
Forest Whitaker recruits Adams, playing a passable General in charge of alien negotiation, and Adams is joined in her quest by mathematician Ian played in a nicely understated fashion by the always excellent Jeremy Renner.
But this is Adams’ movie (she’s a n increasingly class act) and it’s obvious why she is receiving Oscar nods (I doubt this is a winning role though).
Like everything about this understated movie the cinematography and special effects are designed to seduce rather than excite, but for me Bradford Young’s Dickensian lighting underwhelmed rather than understated.
Johan Johannson’s music is a big plus. It underscores beautifully and clearly takes some cues from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Indeed this is the movie that it most resonates with; that and 2001 A Space Odyssey.
The back story of Adams’ life has a brilliant twist that uncoils slowly but surely and makes the whole a deliciously complex tale to unravel.
It’s worth it in my opinion; but not my companion’s, who opined that it was “two hours of my life I won’t get back, even if Jeremy Renner is nice to look at”.
Way above average, thoughtful, slow moving but grown up sic-fi.
Just don’t expect Jedi forces.