Arrival is the story of Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who's fluent in a great many languages. When teaching one day, her students inform her that mysterious alien ships have started landing throughout the globe, 12 in total, and it's not too long after that she's approached by Colonel Webber (Forest Whitaker). Why? Because the government has been able to enter into these mysterious ships, communicating with the aliens, and they want Louise to help translate what the aliens are saying. She's taken to the UFO, and with the help of mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), she must learn the alien language and find out why they've come to Earth.
Arrival is what grounded, modern day sci-fi is all about. It's a film that attempts to be authentic in the way it displays its subject matter. It's an alien invasion movie unlike other alien invasion movies, and while the trailers misdirect you into thinking otherwise, it's a very dialogue heavy story with little to no action throughout. It's all about communication and the power of language, amongst many other things I don't wish to discuss due to the fact that they could be considered spoilers. While it's technically a sci-fi, it's also a simple drama in a lot of ways, using aliens to represent so much more. It's relevant and important, all while being extremely entertaining, even if it does require an awful lot of exposition.
However, it's not just about the story. What makes this a great movie goes well beyond that, expanding out to everything that was done behind the scenes. As mentioned earlier, Villeneuve can do no wrong, and like always, his direction is out of this world. The cinematography isn't quite on the same level as something along the lines of Sicario or Prisoners, but that doesn't make it any less brilliant. The effects look good, although not perfect, but this isn't an effects driven film. Sure, they're there, but it's a film with a lot more going on the trailers will lead you to believe, so the occasional moment of imperfect effects didn't really bother me all that much.
To sum up, Arrival is a dialogue-based sci-fi story with a lot to say, and it most certainly says it well. It's a genius story that requires your full attention, but it's certainly worth it and will undoubtably grab it. The cast is spectacular, but it's Amy Adams who really steals the show, and if this doesn't get her that long overdue Oscar, I will definitely be disappointed.