One of my favourite types of movies is the ‘ultimate twist’. I’m not talking about the stupid plot twist that makes no sense. Nor the obvious twist that you see coming from the first scene. No, I love a movie that grabs me by the cheeks, covers my eyes for an instant and then says, ‘ta-da!’ at which point I realise I’m in a different outfit, in a different country with a different moustache.
Arrival does that pretty well.
The only thing is that Arrival leans far too heavily on the twist. It’s a great twist but without it the script is a bit weak. The part of the story that didn’t make sense to me is how Amy Adams’ character can somehow see the future in a way that can change the present and yet after they sort out the whole aliens thing, she has this weird ‘I’m content with my lot’ thing going on. I mean, come on! You knowingly step into a painful divorce because you just feel like you have to tell your husband what you saw and how you dealt with it in a particular way at a particular time? Why not use your brain and come up with a different strategy with how you communicate to your husband or tell him from the start what you’ve seen knowing it may change everything but that it’s a better thing to do?
The other bugbear I have with Arrival is this idea that the whole world would be ok if everyone would just communicate well with each other. ‘Put aside your own agendas and realise we’re all in this together!’ I believe strongly in unity and I believe that miscommunication and selfishness is a big part of the problem in our world. But at the same time, I feel like this ‘answer’ to the worlds’ problems is shallow and actually unhelpful.
It’s like telling a farmer whose crops are ending up in shops actually poisoning people that he needs to get his act together and do some better testing before they get sent to the shops and that if he does that everything will be better. No, he should do that and it will definitely help with part of the problem. But if his problem is that there’s poison in the soil then he’s really dealing with a symptom and not the problem. And he won’t fix the problem until he does something about the soil and makes a significant change at that point in the process.
That’s what I believe about the world, there’s something amiss and wrong at a foundational level that no communication or unity will fix. Those things are symptoms of the problem and are definitely worth pursuing as part of a wider strategy. But to suggest that communication and a bit of unity will fix everything is simplistic and childish.
I’m a carrot!
See what I did there? DID YOU SEE THAT COMING?! I bet you didn’t. The way that twist does nothing for this blog is exactly the opposite of how the twist in Arrival does everything to save the movie in light of the two major issues I’ve mentioned above.
I really must love an ‘ultimate twist’ movie because the way Arrival masterfully shows you clips which you assume are in the past at the front of the movie and then leaves you dumbfounded halfway through when you realise they’re visions of the future … that’s worth 2 points completely on its own.
Arrival – 7/10