Arrival *** ½
Dir: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Forest Whitaker
If aliens land on our planet how exactly will we be able to communicate with them? After all, according to the Austro-British philosopher Ludwing Wittgenstein, if a lion could speak we would not be able to understand him due to the absence of a common frame of reference. Dennis Villenueve’s intelligent and occasionally moving film asks that very question and if it isn’t quite able to answer it successfully or (at least) completely convincingly it isn’t for the lack of trying.
The movie begins with the arrival of 12 alien ships in different locations across the globe (including Pakistan!) and Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams, a linguistics expert suffering from a personal tragedy, is drafted by the US Army to establish contact with the extra-terrestrials at the American site. While Arrival reminds us of various science-fiction films like Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and Interstellar it still manages to establish its own identity.
It works best in its set-up as Villeneuve establishes a moody, dreamy, eerie atmosphere as aliens and humans meet and Adams provides the necessary emotional heft as the cinematic surrogate for all of humanity. It also delivers a surprise twist successfully (by playing fair with the audience) near the end but some of the too-convenient plotting (and quite a few unanswered questions) means Arrival doesn’t quite stick its landing. Still, there is more than enough here to keep you paying attention till the end.
Cut to chase: Arrives with a bang but doesn’t quite land as successfully.
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them *** ½
Dir: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin
Farrell, Jon Voight.
I had kind of lost interest in the latter entries in the Harry Potter cinematic franchise because I felt that they just didn’t match up to the original books and due to the limited acting abilities of the young leads. As such, I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, the return to the world of Harry Potter on the big screen. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to find myself rather engaged by the movie. J.K. Rowlings herself penned the original screenplay (though based on some references in the Harry Potter books) and allowed her imagination to run free again coming up with many a charming and fantastical creature both human (magical and muggle alike) and animal in the process. Director David Yates (he also directed the last four Potter films) also proves to be more than capable of visually realising Rowlings’ creatures.
The movie is set in 1920s Manhattan as magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in the new world from Europe with a suitcase full of … well, we will soon discover what and finds himself, unexpectedly, in the middle of a tussle within the magical world as well as brewing tensions between the muggles and the magicals. He makes some new friends, including the rotund muggle (or non-mag, the preferred term in America) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler, quite fun) as he has to take on some dark forces that are at work. There are certain plot holes but the movie still provides enough laughs and adventure to give you your money’s worth.
This is supposed to be the first of a five-part movie franchise. As of now, I’m signed up for the ride.
Cut to chase: More fun than I expected it to be.
Kmumtaz1@hotmail.com; Twitter: @KhusroMumtaz
Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection