DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
It doesn't happen often that a film holds so many things in it that I adore without reserve.
Villeneuve's Arrival is what science fiction should be. It extrapolates a fantasy through a human filter, thus commenting on our nature. Science Fiction thinks of the unreal to make it palpable. We can learn a lot from this literature of ideas and Arrival is no different.
The premise has been done to death, but has rarely been approached with such restraint and beauty. Arrival is an experience for the senses. It looks absolutely stunning, with Villeneuve's meticulous craftsmanship guaranteeing no wasted shot, no haphazard mis-en-scene, only perfectly crafted shots and scenes.
I'm not one to note filmscores in so much that they don't rank highly on my list of things I need to be great for me to enjoy a film. Johanssen's score is truly something else though. It emphasizes the estranging qualities present in the subject material and feeds the contemplative mood the film sometimes ventures into.
I love language. I always have and probably always will. In that, I share a passion with Arrival's protagonist and as her's is the narrow perspective we are allowed to view this grand scope through, I was immediately drawn in and invested. That and Adams' stellar, restrained and fragile performance of course. What Arrival has to say about language is something that resonated strongly. It uses the 'pen is mightier than the sword' idea and embeds it into its Science Fiction conceit in a beautiful way, commenting on the fickle nature of humans, the power of communication and the potential of our minds along the way.
One could argue that the narrative serves the plot a bit too conveniently at points, but I felt that at no point it weakened its resolve to show a small, very human, very emotional story running through all the grandeur of the first encounter backdrop. Arrival has heart and shows us a view on life that is as heartbreaking as it is admirable.
Arrival is everything I want from the genre and then some. It is the most beautiful palindrome I have ever seen.