Denis Villenueve’s science fiction film, Arrival, delighted critics and audiences when it hit theaters and managed to snag an impressive eight Academy Award nominations. This week, the film comes to blu-ray, but is the transition to the small screen still worth it? Check out my review to see!
Arrival isn’t your typical Aliens drop down to Earth science fiction story. There’s no over the top destruction or battle sequences, but that doesn’t make the film any less powerful. There are still impressive set pieces to behold and tension galore.
It’s a slow burn kind of story that sees a mystery unfold before your eyes in a way that grips you from the first frame to the last. There’s a lot going on, and as the characters on screen try to figure out what’s going on, you are too. While the film puts a LOT of science into the story, and the characters have to fill in some gaps, one of the great aspects of the film is how it manages to still include you, the audience, in the mystery solving.
You’re given enough hints and clues to put things together, and it really forces you to think through the problems just as the characters in the film are. It’s an excellent way to tell a story, and despite being prominently about an Alien species, it is a very human tale.
It’s a movie that will fill you with awe at a number of points, while bringing about a message of patience and moral righteousness (without being too preachy). In short, the film has many facets to it, making it easy to watch over and over again to get something different out of it. While mystery is what hooks you the first time around, it’s but the top layer to a deeper film. Even if you caught the flick in theaters, it’s an easy recommendation to pick it up and watch again.
Picture and Sound
One of the things that has stood out regarding Arrival, since its very first trailer, is how gorgeous it looks. The imagery is stunning and shot beautifully throughout, making it no surprise at all that Bradford Young managed to get the cinematography Oscar nomination.
To say that it’s gorgeous feels like an understatement. It’s a very pretty film in which every frame, even where it’s simply people talking, feels intentionally designed to evoke a feeling/reaction from the audience. It’s a type of purposeful filmmaking that makes the shots as much a part of the story as what you’re seeing and hearing from the characters.
The blu-ray makes this aspect of the film shine brightly, despite the color pallette being somewhat muted. Visually, it’s masterfully shot, but it’s not exactly vibrant and filled with color. As such, it’s hard to say that the blu-ray is particularly impressive in its presentation. The image is crisp and clear, with deep blacks that keep from crushing. I didn’t notice any distortions or artifacts that were glaring or would detract from the overall film.
The movie has an interesting array of sounds to it, all of which are designed to give a specific feeling. The opening minutes of the film fluctuates from soft tones to jarring sounds of alarms blaring, helicopters coming down, and more. This serves to create a sense of panic and it’s a tool the filmmakers use throughout the entire movie.
Despite not being presented in Dolby Atmos, the lossless soundtrack they went with for the blu-ray manages to serve its needs adequately. Priority is given to the right audio at the best times, ensuring that you can hear all the necessary dialog and sound beats when you need to. I didn’t have to jump at the remote to change the volume scene to scene (especially important now with a newborn in the house). From a technical aspect the blu-ray all goes to serve the film and keep it in the spotlight.
The Bonus Features
Arrival’s blu-ray comes with a total of five special features for movie-lovers to check out:
Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival
Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design
Eternal Recurrence: The Score
Nonlinear Thinking: The Editorial Process
Principles of Time, Memory & Language
While the amount of featurettes may seem small, they are impressive and well worth watching. They dive deep into the filmmaking process and how the various elements of the production all worked toward the same goal of telling this engaging story. For film lovers, it provides and excellent behind the scenes look at telling this kind of story, while it also gives some cool information into the actual science behind the concepts.
Overall, they were among some of the more interesting special features I’ve watched in a while. I was glad to see them included and presented in a smart way, much like the movie itself.
A Great Movie Remains Amazing
Strip away the bonus features, which actually dive deep and enhance the experience, and you’re still left with an amazing movie. Arrival hits all the right notes, making for intelligent and thought-provoking science fiction, while staying visually impressive. Whether you’ve watched it before, or looking to see it for the first time, there’s no reason I can think of to pass on this blu-ray.