Award Nominees // Arrival
It’s not often that sci-fi films are taken seriously by the Academy, but Arrival’s placement among 2017’s Best Picture nominees is as well deserved as it was unexpected.
When a fleet of spacecraft install themselves across a dozen countries around the globe, elite linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called in by the US government to broker communication. Every day at a set time, the newly arrived species welcomes each country’s team of scientists into the spacecraft so they can begin to understand each other. Optimistic and cerebral, the film challenges audiences’ belief in a truly globalized world.
Masterfully photographed by cinematographer Bradford Young, Arrival’s visual spectacle is complemented by a worthy plot: the CGI doesn’t define the narrative, but instead subtly elevates its quiet story to a piece of fine art. This is not a story about aliens and explosions. In a return to form of monster movies of old, Arrival is more interested in understanding the human condition and how we band together when faced with the daunting unknown than in non-stop action and fabricated drama.
The central conflict of the film doesn’t come from the invaders, but rather from the communication breakdown that occurs when humans can’t find common ground across our diverse cultures. Until the linguists from all the countries unite, they remain unable to effectively communicate with the visiting species, and the threat they might pose is unable to be diagnosed.
Arrival was notably excluded from the Golden Globe’s own Best Picture lists, and its inclusion at the upcoming Academy Awards was a happy surprise for fan of the film’s action-void ruminations on humanity. Ahead of the announcement of 2017’s Oscar nominations, Adams’ name graced every Lead Actress list—but she didn’t secure the most important spot for the Feb. 24 ceremony. Despite the film’s instability across this year’s award season, her disinclusion is widely recognized as the most undeserved snub.
Arrival’s lack of mainstream buzz since its release shouldn’t deter viewers from giving it a chance before or after the Academy Awards. Its soft voice communicates a powerful message, and after the hype behind high-profile nominees like La La Land and Hidden Figures dies down, it has a greater chance of achieving a long cinematic life by way of its expert conceptual design.